Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - You don't have to be a fan of the Montreal
Canadiens - or even a closer follower of the NHL - to recall the horrific scene
of an almost-lifeless Max Pacioretty being taken off the ice by stretcher at
the Bell Centre on March 8, 2011.
It's a scene that has been replayed on countless occasions on sports highlight
shows across North America.
It's a scene that won't likely make it into the highlight packages at annual
NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas on June 20 even though Pacioretty will be
among the handful of NHL superstars at the event looking to bring home some
On Tuesday, the NHL announced its finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial
Trophy which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of
perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey and, as has been the case
in recent years, the trophy will go to a player who is coming off a significant
There was no injury more gruesome last season than the one Pacioretty suffered
that, at the time, was considered potentially career-threatening. Pacioretty
was smashed headfirst into the turnbuckle beside the players' bench by Boston
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara - a reckless hit that left the Habs winger with a
Chara did not receive any supplemental discipline from the league for the
hit, although the incident was investigated by Montreal police. They ultimately
decided not to press any charges.
The NHL avoided a major black eye this season when Pacioretty returned to
action not only in full health but showing no lingering effects from the
devastating hit and went on to have a career season. The 23-year-old saw action
in a career-high 79 games - he sat out three contests due to suspension - and
also posted career bests in goals (33), assists (32), points (65), game-winning
goals (five) and shots (286).
The league, understandably, has tried to downplay the incident since then.
In their official press release announcing this year's Masterton Trophy
finalists, the league only referenced the fact Pacioretty missed the final 15
regular-season games and the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs last season "due to
injuries suffered on March 8, 2011 against Boston."
They were much more forthcoming with injury details to the other two finalists
- Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson and Toronto's Joffrey Lupul - making specific
mention of Alfredsson's off-season back surgery and Lupul's recovery from two
back surgeries and a blood infection.
The league would be thrilled to put the entire incident behind it and never
speak of it again, but even if the league can never fully walk away from the
hit, fortunately Pacioretty has recovered well.
Pacioretty is looking to become the fifth Canadiens player to capture the
Masterton Trophy following in the footsteps of Henri Richard, Serge Savard,
Saku Koivu and the trophy's inaugural winner, Claude Provost.
The last winner from a Canadian-based team was Jason Blake in 2007-08 with the
Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sports Network