Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa has been named the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.
The nomination was made by local Vancouver chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association citing his work with MindCheck.ca and raising public awareness about mental illnesses.
Bieksa has shared the story, and his most personal feelings, about Rypien’s struggles with mental illness.
He also convinced Rypien’s mother, Shelley Crawford, to play in the Raise-It-4-Ryp charity golf tournament held in September.
He is part of the reason seven Canadian NHL clubs participated this year in Hockey Talks, a month-long initiative designed to raise awareness about mental illness.
Bieksa’s nomination might come as a surprise to many since players that have come back from career threatening injuries or illnesses are nominated.
Winger Steve Pinizzotto was one of the players that fit into this category and seemed like a shoe-in to get the Canucks nomination. He was an undrafted player who finally made his NHL debut at age 28 this year after missing the entire 2011-12 season due to a shoulder injury and another three months this season rehabilitating a groin tear he sustained in November.
Pinizzotto embodied perseverance and dedication to hockey, but ended up getting the snub.
It is not to say Bieksa is not deserving recognition for his work, but the King Clancy Memorial Trophy might be more appropriate. The trophy is awarded to a player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution in his community
The last player to win the Masterton Trophy for non-injury and illness-related reasons was New York Rangers forward Adam Graves in the 2000-01 season.