Shane Doan Should Lose

Our Captain Being Doan

Our Captain Being Doan

My personal and professional admiration for Shane Doan is unshaken, he’s a legit role model in this house. I’m not alone in this opinion, according to NHL.com, Shane is one of the top ten NHL Captains in the history of the league.

Shane has been, correctly, nominated by the Phoenix Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The Masterton Trophy is awarded to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

The reasoning for Doan’s inclusion is legit. He arguably had a lot to do with the resolution of the lockout this year. He has continued to lead his team despite the ridiculousness of the ownership fiasco.

Shane Doan fits all the criteria, but he should lose this one.

Bill Masterton

Bill Masterton played for the Minnesota North Stars. In a game early in 1968, Masterton crossed the blue line, passed the puck off, and was creamed by two members of the opposing Oakland Seals. Masterton fell backwards and hit his head on the ice, immediately rendered unconscious. He was carried off the ice.

Masterton never awoke from his coma and died two days later, the first on-ice casualty in the NHL.

There has been speculation Masterton was already suffering the effects of head trauma. Back in the days of no helmets in the NHL, wasn’t EVERYBODY suffering the effects of head trauma? Probably, but that provided no comfort to the wife and two young kids he left behind.

Masterton Trophy

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Despite there being no mention of it in the “blurb” describing what the trophy represents, it’s typically been awarded to a player that’s come back from a serious injury and usually continued to have an impact on the game he plays.

Last year’s winner was the Habs’ Max Pacioretty who returned for his most productive season after having been crushed into a stanchion by the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara, suffering a cracked vertebra and a severe concussion.

Doaner isn’t returning from an injury.

The guy who should be the hands down winner of the Masterton Trophy this year should be Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding.

Josh Harding

It would be somehow fitting that a Minnesota goalie end up with an award named for a Minnesota NHL player and, yes, Harding has been nominated.

Josh isn’t the captain of his team, he’s not even the starting goalie. Outside the Wild fans sphere influence, if he is known at all it’s for his cool goalie masks. This past June, he signed a $4.7M three year contract with the Wild, not Bryzgalov money but a nice paycheck.

This fall, having reportedly suffered vision problems and numbness, an MRI revealed lesions on Josh’s brain. The diagnosis is Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a currently incurable and degenerative disease with symptoms are devastating to “normal” life. So, the effects on a world class athlete playing a position requiring rapid and instinctive moves are devastating.

MS is most often described as an autoimmune disorder, “immune-mediated” may be a better description. If you remember biology and discussion of nerves, MS attacks the central nervous system and destroys the myelin sheath. The central nervous system gradually shorts out throughout the body at an unpredictable rate. You could wake up one morning with a severe reduction of your physical capacity or you could go years maintaining stability.

There aren’t any rules but usually the result is significant and irreversible debilitation. Treatments are available, success is variable.

The only thing guaranteed with MS is uncertainty.

Suffice it to say, the day Josh and his fiancé (expecting their first child) received his diagnosis and, we assume, his prognosis for the future living with a progressive disorder was a really bad day. I can vouch for this firsthand.

The first challenge is then to decide how you’re going to deal with the future.

Josh decided to keep punching.

Press On Regardless

I don’t profess to know what Harding’s financial situation at the time of his diagnosis. As a relatively successful pro athlete on the south side of 30, he should have a decent comfort level. The point is I don’t think a continued paycheck was THE deciding factor for Harding.

He told Mike Russo from the Star Tribune:

“I had a couple days where I felt bad for myself, but no more. There’s things in life that happen. Sometimes you can’t explain it. You deal with it.”

Josh Harding

Josh Harding

Of course there is no other option than to deal with adversity, the difference comes in the decision how to do so.

It’s a different thing to wade into a battle that you know you’ll eventually lose no matter how hard you fight. Josh and his growing family KNOW the end of their road in the professional athlete business won’t be determined with a retirement decision, that decision will be made for them by MS.

While encouraging progress is being made in the MS fight, short of a miracle, there is nothing that’s going to come in time for Josh to finish his professional career. And he knows it.

Instead of working through his bucket list, Josh went back to work. Despite being an obviously tough guy, he had to pull himself back out in February when his aggressive course of medication to lessen the effects of his disease having backfired on him a little.

Being around, being competitive, and being a leader is important. Being an example to kids is important, that’s what adults do and that’s what professional athletes have a unique opportunity to do. Sucking it up and participating without whining? That’s important, and Harding has decided to stand at the plate and keep swinging until he can’t do it anymore.

Harding’s first game since February 7 was last night in an important game against the Oilers. He replaced Nik Backstrom, who gave up three goals in five shots. He got a big round of applause from the Wild fans, although they resorted to boos later as the Oilers continued whomping the Wild until they finally lost 6-1.

By the way, this isn’t Harding’s first comeback from a career ending injury. He missed an entire season with a torn ACL and MCL before returning to back up Backstrom last year.

Give the Masterton to Josh.

Oh, and the Wild just now won their crucial game to grab the final playoff spot this season.

Doaner? Lets’ see if we can manage a big silver trophy for him next season instead. Read the April 26 entry of “Why Are The Coyotes Cool” for some Doan video.

 

Comments

  1. Bill Eikost says:

    Good blog G. Well said. Nothing more to add to it.

  2. Jeffery Anderson says:

    Doaner is not coming back from an injury. His name should be scratched off the candidate listed.

    • That’s wrong, Jeffery, and wasn’t the point of this post. Coming back from an injury is not a prerequisite for the award, it’s simply become traditional. Doaner is certainly deserving of this award (and many more) based on the criteria, the point was that someone else SHOULD get it this year.