The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is given out annually to the NHL player who exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The award has been voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 1968, and today they announced their nominees for 2020.
Johns’ story of perseverance may not be as well known across the hockey landscape, but it is an inspiring one nonetheless. His career was cut short in 2018 due to concussion symptoms and for a very long time, it looked like he may never hit the ice in an NHL game again. 22 months later he made a triumphant return to the Dallas Stars lineup, playing 17 games for the team and even scoring two goals. Johns himself admits that at one point he lost hope. In Sean Shapiro’s beautiful telling of the story for The Athletic, the defenseman explained that he experienced suicidal thoughts while dealing with post-traumatic headaches and associated symptoms. Johns found his way back.
Lindblom’s ordeal was much more publicized, after a cancer diagnosis in December. His battle and cause were taken up by players and fans in Philadelphia and across the hockey world, with #OskarStrong bringing people together to support the young forward. In early July, Lindblom completed his radiation treatments and was able to ring the bell at Abramson Cancer Center. He will not be taking part in the Flyers’ postseason but is expected to make a full recovery and continue his career.
Ryan, the oldest of the three finalists, went through a battle with alcoholism that ended in a three-month leave from the Senators. During that time he underwent treatment and eventually returned in one of the most emotional moments of the season. Ryan scored a hat trick in his first game back in Ottawa, bringing the fans in attendance to their feet for a long standing ovation. Not only did Ryan show perseverance to return to the NHL, but it is his willingness to share his story that has touched so many people. The 33-year old veteran continues to answer questions about his experiences in order to try and help younger players who may be dealing with the same thing.