Pothier Nominated for Masterton
Sometimes choosing a nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is tough. This season, however, the choice was easy for the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
Because if there is anyone who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey," that player is Brian Pothier, who, of course, returned last month from a 14-month layoff with post-concussion syndrome and then scored his first goal since December 2007 in Friday's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.
"The situation I went through is just an example of life," Pothier said earlier today. "Sometimes things are great and sometimes things are not great. It's a matter of having a goal and staying focused on it and figuring things out along the way.
"A motto of mine is: 'It's not what happens to you, it's how you react to it.' The last few years, my faith has gone, my perspective on life has grown quite a bit."
"It's been quite a road. The first goal we had was just to be functional. When that happened, I said, 'Hey, let's keep pressing and hopefully I'll get to the point where I can play hockey again.' I've achieved that goal, and it's phenomenal.
"You sort of do take it for granted," he added. "Not that you don't want to be the best that you can be, because we all get frustrated when we don't perform like we should. But when you go through something like [a serious concussion] you realize that you're playing as hard as you possibly can, and working as hard as you possibly can, and sometimes things just go wrong. Sometimes, the puck doesn't bounce the way you want it to. At the end of the day, in the past, you kind of would mope around and pout about things because your whole world is centered around hockey. But you take that away for a year, and your perspective changes quite a bit."
Pothier said he had 28 phone messages waiting for him after he made his return to the NHL on March 16 in Atlanta. Interestingly, he said, he also had 28 messages waiting for him after scoring last week.
"I don't know if it's a significant number, but it's a funny thing," he said with a laugh. "It was old college buddies, old coaches, friends of the family, everyone. The support has been phenomenal."
If the 31-year-old's return from a career-threatening concussion wasn't enough, Pothier's circuitous journey from New Bedford, Mass., to R.P.I. to the Orlando Solar Bears of the IHL to the NHL also qualifies him for the nomination.
"My draft year came and went three times and I didn't think twice about it," he said. "Honestly, I didn't know what the OHL was. Never heard of it. It was all about Boston College and B.U. Then about my junior year, I had a good year and at the end of the year and, I said to myself, 'Next year is my senior year. Maybe I could do this professionally somehow.' Maybe play down in Carolina or Mississippi or some nice weather [place], do some golfing, make a couple of bucks and it's kind of taken off from there."
And now he's in the third year of a four-year, $10 million contract, playing hockey at its highest level and is among 30 peers vying for the Masterton, which last year was won by Toronto's Jason Blake.
"Dedication and perseverance," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He missed 14 months with his fourth concussion. To be able to come all the way back, through all the pitfalls he's had, I can't find another person more suited for that. He sort of officially came all the way back when he scored a goal and now he's playing regularly on our blue line. That's a tremendous feat."
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