Kevin Hayes not only just completed the toughest year of his hockey career but probably the most difficult of his entire life.
The Flyers’ veteran center endured the loss of his brother, Jimmy, last summer and had to go through a series of surgeries plus treatment of a blood infection before returning to Philadelphia’s lineup.
Hayes was the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and on Monday it was announced he is one of three finalists for the award. The other two are New York Islanders veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara and Montraal Canadiens goalie Careu Price.
The Masterton Trophy is awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” the National Hockey League announced today.
The local chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy after the conclusion of the regular season and the top three vote-getters were designated as finalists.
Hayes recorded 10 goals/31 points in 48 games this season and, after returning from his latest surgery on March 5, led the team in scoring with 22 points (7-15–22) in 28 contests.
“It’s been difficult but playing hockey this year is something I knew would be emotional and it has had its ups and downs but I’m definitely proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish,’’ Hayes told the Courier Times. Added GM Chuck Fletcher, “To return from both the physical and emotional challenges he faced this season speaks volumes about his character as a person, but also his commitment to our club and his teammates.”
This is the third consecutive year that a Flyer has been named a finalist for the Masterton with Oskar Lindblom being named the previous two seasons. Lindblom won the Trophy in 2020-21 for his courageous return after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in December of 2019. No team in NHL history has had players win the Masterton in back-to-back seasons.
The winner of the Masterton will be revealed during the NHL Awards Show, which is set to take place between Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in the host city of the team playing.
There have been four Flyers to receive the award in franchise history: Lindblom (2021), Ian Laperriere (2011), Tim Kerr (1989) and Bob Clarke (1972).
Chara skated in his 24th NHL season in 2021-22, one of just eight players in NHL history to do so. The 45-year-old appeared in 72 games and recorded 2-12–14, ranking second on the club in plus-minus (+8) and fourth in total ice time (1,348:41, an average of 18:44 per game). He set the NHL record for most games played by a defenseman on Feb. 24 at San Jose with career appearance no. 1,652, passing Chris Chelios (1,651), and extended the mark to 1,680 by season’s end.
“Any time you can play alongside a guy that’s played that long and seen a lot of the things in the league as a defenseman, for a young guy like me, you can definitely pick up things,” Chara’s 22-year-old defense partner Noah Dobson told Newsday. “That’s a big thing with him, he’s always talking. At the start of the year, we weren’t very comfortable with one another yet, with sharing what you saw. Now that we have that comfort level, it’s worked well. He’s always talking and communicating and it’s helped me a lot.”
Price made his 2021-22 debut for the Canadiens, his 15th season in Montreal, on April 15, lifting the entire organization. “There’s just a presence when you have a guy like that in the dressing room. I know his calmness, his preparation, his work ethic. Sometimes Carey doesn’t need to speak to lead. And I feel that,” head coach Martin St. Louis told The Athletic.
The franchise’s all-time leader for games and wins by a goaltender, the 34-year-old had undergone knee surgery in July 2021 following the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. He also spent time away from the team while voluntarily taking part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
“This is definitely tough,” Price said, “but I’ve always been a fighter and I’ve always been a clawer so I’m not giving up. So I’m going to continue to do my best to prepare for next season.”
A $2,500 grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.
The Trophy presentation began in 1968 to commemorate the late Bill Masterton, a player with the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited to a high degree the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey and who died on Jan. 15, 1968.