The Flyers may not have been a compelling story on the ice in recent seasons, but off the ice, they’ve had some personal stories that have tugged on the heart strings of hockey fans across the globe.
The past two seasons, we were right there, every step of the way with Oskar Lindblom as he battled Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
This past season, we grieved with Kevin Hayes at the sudden loss of his older brother Jimmy late in the summer and watched Hayes fight through that as well as repeat injuries, surgeries, and blood infections, to make his way back into the Flyers lineup in a lost season for the franchise, and one in which he could have stayed out of the lineup, but didn’t.
It was that perseverance, that dedication to the sport that made Hayes the slam dunk nominee of the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) for the Masterton Trophy, and it was his story that resonated enough with all the voting members of the PHWA around the globe, to be named a finalist for the award today.
It is the third consecutive year the Flyers have had a finalist for the Masterton. Lindblom was a finalist in 2019-20, the year he was diagnosed with cancer. And was the winner of the award in 2020-21, the year he became cancer-free and returned to a regular spot in the Flyers lineup.
Lindblom was the fourth Flyer to win the award joining Bobby Clarke (1972), Tim Kerr (1989), and Ian Laperriere (2011).
Also named as a finalist with Hayes were New York Islanders defenseman Zdeno Chara and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
The winner of the Masterton will be revealed during the NHL Awards Show, which is set to take place between Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in the host city of the team playing.
Hayes appeared in 48 games for the Flyers, where he recorded 10 goals and 21 assists for 31 points with an average of 17:55 of ice time per game. After returning from his latest surgery on Mar. 5, he led the Flyers in scoring with 22 points (7g-15a) in the final 28 games of the season with an average of 19:25 ice time per game.
When he scored his first goal of the season, he immediately pointed skyward, in tribute to his brother.
What a moment.
Kevin Hayes nets his first of the year with a point to the sky to honor Jimmy.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 17, 2021
To be considered for the Masterton, the PHWA chapter in each market of the 32 NHL clubs nominates one player from that team. On Apr. 25, the Philadelphia Chapter of the PHWA chose Hayes as the Flyers nominee to the NHL.
No team in NHL history has had players win the Masterton in back-to-back seasons. But if there is going to be a first time, this could be it as Hayes’ story captivated the NHL this season.
Here are the blurbs that were written by the three chapters for the finalists:
Montreal — Carey Price
The Canadiens announced last July 23 that Carey Price had knee surgery and would require 10-12 weeks to recover. On Sept. 23, then-coach Dominique Ducharme said Price should be ready for the first game of the season. Except that recovery took much longer than anticipated. At age 34, with a long history of injuries, playing a position that is tough on the knees, Price suffered numerous setbacks, to the point where he even admitted in late January that his ability to continue his playing career was in question. Price also showed courage in October by seeking the help of the NHLPA/NHL player assistance program to help battle a problem with substance use. This obviously delayed his recovery from knee surgery. On April 15, with the Canadiens near the bottom of the NHL standings, Price played his first game of the season.
NY Islanders — Zdeno Chara
This 6-9, 250 defenseman has shown both perseverance and dedication to ice hockey by playing into his 24th NHL season at age 45, returning to the team that drafted him in 1996 and where he spent his first four seasons. Devoted to his physical fitness routine, Chara broke Chris Chelios’ previous NHL record for defensemen by playing in his 1,652nd regular-season game on Feb. 24 and has dressed for 68 of the Islanders’ first 77 games while averaging 18:40 of ice time. Coaches and teammates rave about Chara’s pure love of the sport as a reason he keeps going and they also rave about his leadership and mentorship, particularly of third-year defenseman Noah Dobson, who has set career highs in goals, assists and games this season. Chara can constantly be seen talking to Dobson on the bench, instructing him on the finer points of the game. Chara has always played a physical game but constantly shows sportsmanship, particularly after fights, patting his opponent to check to see if he’s all right or simply telling him he did a good job.
Philadelphia — Kevin Hayes
This 29-year-old center had two abdominal surgeries before the season. In January, he had another procedure to drain fluid from the adductor region. That procedure was for an infection in his groin area. Because of the medical issues, Hayes has been in and out of the lineup all season… (and) has dedicated the season to his brother, Jimmy, a former NHL player, who died suddenly on Aug. 23. He has also increased his leadership duties since long-time captain Claude Giroux was traded to Florida on March 19. In short, he has become a leader on and off the ice despite a year filled with heartbreak.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy was presented by the NHL Writers’ Association in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, a player with the Minnesota North Stars, who exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, and who died January 15, 1968.
(For the record, I voted for Hayes, and it wasn’t just because he’s our nominee in Philly. After reading all 32 nominees – and all were good stories – I just felt that Hayes’ was most compelling and fit the spirit of the award better than any other candidate this season)
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