Every year each NHL team can nominate one player for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The nomination is based on a player that best exemplifies the qualities of perserverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game of hockey. The individual nominated is typically someone that comes back from a career, or in some cases a life threatening injury the following season. Recent winners have included Jose Theodore in 2009-2010, Steve Sullivan in 2008-02009, and Jason Blake in 2007-2008. Others to receive the award include Mario Lemieux, Tony Granato, Saku Koivu and Gary Roberts.
This year the Florida Panthers have nominated forward David Booth. The nomination should come as no surprise to people here in South Florida, but also to people in and around the NHL. Booth who missed 64 games last season as a result of two concussions has responded with a comeback season that many were concerned about. The hits, one by Mike Richards, which was the most devastating, and the second by Jaroslav Spacek, put the career of Booth in jeporday.
The goal that Booth set for himself at the beginning of the season was to play in every game this year for the Panthers. A very solid accomplishment that appears to be fulfilled with two games remaining on the schedule. While Booth hasn’t lost his speed, or his tenacity, his goal scoring has been somewhat streaky. But that’s what happens with a player that plays the style of game that he does. While not shying away from physicality, Booth leads all Panther forwards with 128 hits. A sign that he’s not afraid to use his body.
Where I have seen a difference lately though is that he is now going into the dirty areas. Getting to the net more, taking the puck towards the goaltender, and getting more shots up close. In the early part of the season, many of Booth’s shots were taken from along the wall, and from areas that didn’t present much of a problem for goaltenders. The game this past Saturday against the Penguins was in my opinion the best game that Booth has played all season. Here’s a quote by Booth that appeared in the Sun-Sentinel yesterday:
“Last year was one of the hardest years I went through,” said Booth, who scored his team-leading 23rd goal in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Washington. “I learned a lot about life in general, about character, perseverance.
“It’s a privilege to play this game for a living and when it’s taken away from you I guess you realize how good you have it.
Booth currently has a team leading 23 goals, and had he not been “tentative” at the beginning of the season, which was expected, he might have 30. While I can’t possibly know what he went through to get back to playing his game, I have to say that I congratulate him on what he did to get to where he is today. I will never forget the hit that Richards layed on him. Actually, the way he hit the ice was more troubling, and as he lay there motionless, you felt scared for him. Watching that game, my house was silent the reminder of the night. Fortunately, through hard work and the other reasons that this trophy is awarded, David has come back. Maybe not all the way, but almost. Coach Peter DeBoer had this to say about his young forward:
“I came into the season hoping he’d stay healthy and take a step back towards being the player he’s capable of being, and he’s on his way to doing that,” coach Pete DeBoer said.
He’s a great kid. Still young with a bright future ahead of him. He deserves the nomination and I wish him the best of luck in the voting for the award. Mostly, it’s great to see him back. Congrats David for sticking to your plan and for setting an example and being one of the bright spots on the Florida Panthers.
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