The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club is proud to announce that forward Sam Gagner has been named the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Winnipeg chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA). The Masterton Trophy is awarded annually by the National Hockey League to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Gagner, who reached the 1,000 NHL game milestone earlier this season – his 16th in the league – touches all the bases when it comes to the qualifications.
“I certainly appreciate the recognition,” said Gagner, who was asked how those qualities were ingrained in him. “I think a lot of it has to do with my parents and the way I was brought up. Also, just the support that I have gotten through the course of my career, through some of the ups and downs. You find out a lot about yourself and the people who support you during those times. I am very fortunate to have the people in my life that I have: my wife, my parents, my friends, some of the teammates I’ve had.”
“I am fortunate to have been in the league as long as I have been. You gain perspective as you go along, and just continue to try to work at it. The biggest thing for me is that I love the game. I realize how much the game has given me. I like to live by, ‘you love the game, it will love you back’. The lessons that the game has taught me I wouldn’t take back any of it. The adversity or the hardships that I have gone through, they have taught me so much. They will help me in whatever I end up doing later in life.”
The ups and downs included several unplanned stints in the American Hockey League, but he worked his way back to the NHL each time – helping his appreciation for everything he’s enjoyed and endured along the road.
“That’s the fun part about the journey. You just never know where it’s going to take you,” said Gagner. “You have certain aspirations for how your career is going to go at that age. You come in at 18 and things are going really well. Maybe you expect to play in Edmonton your whole career and win Stanley Cups and everything is going to go perfectly, but like I said, there have been a lot of ups and downs that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Gagner made an impact on the Jets during his time with the group this season and he plans to be around the team as a sounding board and to share his experiences throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs as he continues his recovery.
The Masterton Trophy was first presented by the NHL Writers’ Association in 1968 to commemorate the late William Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars, who was originally from Winnipeg and exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Masterton died on January 15, 1968 after sustaining an injury sustained during a hockey game.
Gagner is one of 32 candidates around the NHL. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA and will be revealed when the NHL holds its annual awards, though they may be held virtually this year.
A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, MN, in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.