On January 15th, 1968, the NHL had a participant die as of the result of an on-ice play.
Two days earlier the Minnesota North Stars were playing the Oakland Seals. Early in the game Bill Masterton, a highly educated fellow with an interesting story to tell, led a solo rush into Oakland territory where he was greeted unceremoniously by Seals' defensemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris. Both defenders nailed the smaller Masterton with very hard though clean body check. Masterton fell to the ice, hitting his helmetless head on the ice, instantly knocking him out cold.
Masterton never regained consciousness. For more than 30 hours doctors managed to keep him alive using respirators but the massive internal brain injuries were too immense. Early in the morning of January 15th, 1968, Masterton died.
In his honour the NHL awards the Masterton Trophy, usually given to a player who has overcome a significant hardship. 2011's finalists are Ray Emery, who overcame career threatening hip surgery, Ian Laperierre, whose career is all but officially over after suffering a severe concussion, and, Daymond Langkow, who miss a full calendar year with a neck injury.
Here's some Masterton Trophy Trivia, complete with answers. Here's the name of some winners, and why they won:
- John Cullen - Non-Hodgkin's Lymphona
- Jason Blake -never missed a game despite being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia
- Mario Lemieux - Led the league in scoring despite missing 24 games with Hodgkin's Lymphona.
- Tim Kerr - battled knee and shoulder injuries relentlessly, also had meningitis. Scored 48 goals.
- Jose Theodore - played valiantly despite dealing with the death of his infant son.
For a complete list of winners and the reasons for winning can be found on Wikipedia.
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