The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is given out at the NHL Awards every summer “to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
The winner is voted on by the PHWA at the end of the regular season, and each NHL team nominates one candidate. The Toronto Maple Leafs nominee is Tyler Ennis this year, as voted on by the Toronto chapter of the PHWA.
GM Kyle Dubas on Ennis: “He was going to put the work in and voluntarily bring himself here (last) summer with our performance and strength and conditioning staff to get ready. He told us he knew he had a lot at stake and we thought we could provide him with a great opportunity"— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) March 28, 2019
Bill Masterton died in 1968 at the age of 29 as a direct result of injuries suffered in a game. This award recognizes him as a symbol of the price paid by players to be NHLers. There is a scholarship fund in his name that is supported in part by a grant given every year by the PHWA.
The award is vaguely worded enough that it can mean whatever you want it to mean, and in recent years it’s been used to recognize players who have suffered illness or other hardships. Brian Boyle won last year. Craig Anderson the year before. The last Maple Leaf to win it was Jason Blake in 2008.
Tyler Ennis isn’t going to win this, but it’s easy to see his perseverance and dedication. He played most of his career in Buffalo, arriving just after they peaked, and he played through their deepest trough, scoring 20 goals in 2014-2015 to lead the team as they tanked hard.
When a series of injuries struck, including some concussions and other injuries that took a long time to heal, his effectiveness faded, Buffalo traded him to the Wild, and he found himself deep in the wilderness on a team that couldn’t figure him out.
Ennis, you may have noticed, is not very big, but he sure is fast, and he can snipe the puck and pass it nearly as well as he used to. Toronto was a place that has that combination all figured out.
Ennis, as has been widely reported, showed up last summer and worked hard with the medical and training staff and skated out in blue and white as a valuable player right out of training camp. He’s done some turns on Auston Matthews wing as a fill-in, he plays the power play, and he’s one of a rotating cast of wingers on the fourth line that seems to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone.
They were spectacular last night, and there’s no reason not to look at his sweet pass on the opening goal again:
Injury struck again this season with a fractured ankle, but Ennis came right back from that and is as effective as he was before. He sits in the press box sometimes, so the Leafs can bring on prospects Trevor Moore or Nic Petan, who, you may have noticed, aren’t very big, and that’s got to be an interesting experience to watch your replacements take your job one game at a time.
But when he does play, he plays like he did last night, almost without fail.
So, yes, perseverance and dedication. And some sweet passes and 12 goals in 47 games. That’s Tyler Ennis.