PHWA announces 2022 Masterton Trophy nominees

The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) is pleased to announce the 2022 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominees.

Each of the PHWA’s 32 local chapters submitted nominations for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.”

The top three vote-getters, as determined by a membership-wide runoff, will be designated as finalists. The Masterton Trophy will be awarded, along with the other NHL major awards, between Games 3 & 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The following are this year’s nominees:

Anaheim — Ryan Getzlaf: In his 17th and final NHL season, Ryan Getzlaf is ending it in the way that he came in – playing a hard, physical game honest in its manner and execution while resuming his status as the greatest playmaking center in franchise history. The 36-year-old Ducks star washed away the bitter taste of a joyless 2020-21 season played mostly without fans. He did that with a great start to 2021-22 that included becoming Anaheim’s all-time leading scorer and surpassing the 1,000-point milestone. A foot injury hobbled him in the second half, but it didn’t diminish his influence on young linemate Troy Terry and his breakout 36-goal season.

Arizona — Andrew Ladd: Injuries and age limited Ladd to 30 NHL games over the past three seasons (four over the past two). He spent most of that time either rehabbing, playing in the AHL, or stewing on his fate. Off-ice sessions with mental skills coach Dan Leffelaar and on-ice work with skills coach Adam Oates altered his outlook and his game. Ladd has played 49 games for the Coyotes this season, totaling seven goals and 11 points.

Boston — Jake DeBrusk: Despite a challenging last few seasons, the 25-year-old DeBrusk has persevered to play some of the best hockey of his career after an uncomfortable trade request was made public in December. He spoke to teammates on Dec. 1 and told them the honest truth, with Taylor Hall revealing DeBrusk told them his “career was at a crossroads.” DeBrusk scored the next night, went quiet through the holidays, and a trade never materialized. He busted out with eight goals in an eight-game stretch and even though he signed a two-year extension with the Bruins on trade deadline day just to take the fear of his qualifying offer off the table for interested teams, GM Don Sweeney still wasn’t able to find a taker. Through it all, DeBrusk has notched 23 goals – his best output in four seasons – and is knocking on the door of a career-high in points, and perhaps a fresh start elsewhere this summer.

Buffalo — Kyle Okposo: This 33-year-old alternate captain has had a rebirth on the ice with 19 goals in his first 70 games after scoring just two last season. He’s overcome injuries, including the severe concussion issues that landed him in a neuro ICU in April 2017. But mostly he’s become a pillar in the dressing room, leading the cadre of young Sabres and even presenting the player of the game sword to broadcaster Rick Jeanneret after his banner raising night on April 1.

Calgary — Chris Tanev: While Tanev had some tough luck with injuries during his stint in Vancouver, he hasn’t missed a single game in his two seasons with the Flames. That certainly doesn’t mean that the durable, dependable defenseman isn’t often playing through pain. The 32-year-old is a mentor to his blue-line partners, a respected leader in the locker room, and the sort of underrated player that you appreciate more and more when you see him in action every night. He is also a fearless shot-blocker, consistently sacrificing his body to help out his goaltender. Flames starter Jacob Markstrom showed his appreciation this season with a mask that includes a tribute to Tanev’s mostly toothless hockey smile.

Carolina — Antti Raanta: On his fourth team in nine NHL seasons, Raanta has returned to the form that made him a top-10 goalie in the league. Raanta’s career has at times been derailed by injuries, but the 32-year-old from Rauma, Finland, has stayed healthy in his first season in Carolina and helped the Hurricanes to the top of the Metropolitan Division with fellow goaltender Frederick Andersen. It’s the first season Raanta has played since the death of his father, Pekka, who would text Raanta before every game with advice and encouragement.

Chicago — Dylan Strome: It would have been hard to blame Dylan Strome if he pouted. If he stewed. If he became a problem in the locker room. If he demanded a trade. The No. 3 overall pick in 2015 — behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel — had fallen out of Jeremy Colliton’s lineup completely. And new coach Derek King didn’t exactly warm up to him right away, making him a healthy scratch even after games in which he produced. Already labeled a bust once in Arizona, Strome was flirting with the title again. But he persevered, worked on his defensive game, and patiently waited for his chance to get back in the lineup, all while remaining, by all accounts, a model teammate. And despite being scratched 13 times in the first half of the season, Strome put up 18 goals and 21 assists in a 40-game span after Jan. 4, re-establishing himself as a top-six player in the NHL.

Colorado — Jack Johnson: Going into the season, Johnson said that retirement isn’t always a choice: Sometimes no one is willing to give you a shot. But the Avalanche signed Johnson to a professional tryout agreement, and the veteran defenseman clawed his way into a roster spot. The 35-year-old, who Pittsburgh bought out in 2020 and who missed most of last season with the Rangers due to injury, has played in more than 90 percent of the league-best Avalanche’s games, reaching the career 1,000-game mark in March.

Columbus — Justin Danforth: Undersized and overlooked his entire career, Danforth, an Oshawa, Ont., native, finally reached the NHL with the Blue Jackets this season at 28 years old. He turned 29 in March. His was a truly unique path to the world’s top league. Snubbed by the major U.S. college programs, Danforth attended tiny Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., just as the school was beginning Division I competition. After four years at Sacred Heart (2013-17), Danforth spent two years bouncing around the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres organizations on minor-league deals, playing more games in the ECHL (47) than the AHL (21). Then it was off to Europe, which is where Danforth’s pro career bloomed and the thought of playing in the NHL — a pipedream since his youth — started to become more realistic. The Blue Jackets signed him to a two-way contract last spring. He was recalled from AHL Cleveland and made his NHL debut on Nov. 15 vs. Detroit, quickly becoming a lineup regular. On the night he debuted, his coaches from Sacred Heart traveled to Columbus to bear witness. He’s the only from that program to play in the NHL.

Dallas – Tyler Seguin: Seguin, 30, is playing in his first full season after undergoing both hip and knee surgeries following the Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. Seguin played on a torn labrum in his hip during the playoff run, an injury that required surgery in the offseason. What was supposed to be a five-month recovery turned into much more for Seguin, who also had to undergo a procedure on his knee afterward. Seguin played three games for the Stars during the 2020-21 season and has missed just one game this season. As of April 15, Seguin has 32 points in his last 39 games.

Detroit — Marc Staal: At 35 years old, Staal remains a stalwart presence on the back end, where his size and calm demeanor provides stability. Staal plays smart and effectively (he’s the only Wing who has played more than 60 games and retained a plus rating). He appeared in his 1,000th game on March 12, and is on pace to play 73 games this season, embodying perseverance and consistency in the twilight of his career.

Edmonton — Kris Russell: Nobody in the history of the National Hockey League has blocked more shots than Edmonton Oilers defenceman Kris Russell,. He blocked career shot No. 1,999 earlier this season to take over the all-time lead in that category, and at the time of this writing remains the only NHL player ever to exceed 2,000 shots blocked. The 34-year-old Caroline, Alberta native entered the NHL as an offensive threat, coming off a 69-point season in his final year of junior hockey. But he quickly realized that, if he was going to have a lengthy career, the 5-10, 170-pounder was going to have to channel his farming roots and make his living in the dirty areas of the game. Russell passed the 900-game mark this season and continues to block shots with reckless abandon.

Florida — Anthony Duclair: Duclair bounced around the NHL — playing for five teams by the age of 25 — before finding a home with the Florida Panthers. Duclair signed a “prove-it” one-year deal with the Panthers and was one of the team leaders in helping Florida turn its fortunes around in 2021. The Panthers then signed him to a three-year extension where he has had a career season in a record-breaking year for the Panthers. Duclair goes into Friday as a first-time 30-goal scorer with 54 points in 65 games. Off the ice, Duclair is one of the founding members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance and has headed up the Panthers’ team initiatives including wrapping their sticks in special tape which reads ‘Racism Has No Place in Hockey’ as well as wearing anti-racism t-shirts to games.

Los Angeles — Blake Lizotte: Lizotte arrived in Los Angeles as an unheralded college free agent from St. Cloud State University. Despite the depth of the Kings’ forward prospects pool, Lizotte has established himself as the mainstay of the “energy” line by coupling his high hockey IQ with a tenacious style. Blake established career-highs in goals, faceoff-win percentage, and hits this season to earn a two-year contract extension.

Minnesota — Jared Spurgeon: Originally drafted by the New York Islanders with the No. 156 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, they opted not to sign the undersized blue liner. From there, the Wild invited Spurgeon to their training camp in 2010, and well, the rest is history. He turned heads at that tryout, earned an entry-level contract with the Wild, and after a brief stint in the minors, made his NHL debut a couple of months later on his 21st birthday. He’s slowly emerged as the face of the franchise since then, playing more than 750 games with the Wild, and succeeding Mikko Koivu as the second permanent captain in franchise history. In his new role, Spurgeon has helped usher in a new era for the Wild, making everyone feel welcome with his inclusive demeanor.

Montreal — Carey Price: The Canadiens announced last July 23 that Carey Price had knee surgery and would require 10-12 weeks to recover. On Sept. 23, then-coach Dominique Ducharme said Price should be ready for the first game of the season. Except that recovery took much longer than anticipated. At age 34, with a long history of injuries, playing a position that is tough on the knees, Price suffered numerous setbacks, to the point where he even admitted in late January that his ability to continue his playing career was in question. Price also showed courage in October by seeking the help of the NHLPA/NHL player assistance program to help battle a problem with substance use. This obviously delayed his recovery from knee surgery. On April 15, with the Canadiens near the bottom of the NHL standings, Price played his first game of the season.


Le 23 juillet dernier, le Canadien annonçait que Carey Price avait subi une opération à un genou et qu’il en aurait pour 10 à 12 semaines de rééducation. Le 23 septembre Dominique Ducharme annonçait que Price devrait être prêt pour le premier match de la saison. Sauf que la rééducation a été plus longue que prévu. À 34 ans, avec de lourds antécédents médicaux, à une position dure pour les genoux, Price a subi de nombreux reculs, au point où il a lui-même admis que la suite de sa carrière était incertaine. Price a aussi fait preuve de courage en s’inscrivant, en octobre, au programme d’aide de la LNH et de l’AJLNH afin de combattre un problème de consommation. La démarche l’a évidemment forcé à prendre une pause dans sa rééducation. C’est finalement le 15 avril que Price a disputé son premier match de la saison.

Nashville — Mark Borowiecki: Borowiecki suffered a panic attack during an early-season game in 2020-21, his first season with the Predators. The 32-year-old veteran defenseman has used his platform to promote the importance of mental health. “I just think it’s important for guys to know that you can still be this tough guy in the NHL and this archetypal masculine athlete, but you can stay on top of this stuff. It’s only going to benefit you,” Borowiecki said.

New Jersey — Nico Hischier: Hischier had a trying 2020-21 season, from a broken leg during pre-training camp preparations to a COVID-19 diagnosis to taking a deflected puck in the face that resulted in a sinus fracture. Hischier, one of the youngest captains in the NHL, rebounded this season with not only a career-high in goals and points but also by continuing to play an honest, fearless style of hockey that has made him a natural leader in New Jersey.

NY Islanders — Zdeno Chara: This 6-9, 250 defenseman has shown both perseverance and dedication to ice hockey by playing into his 24th NHL season at age 45, returning to the team that drafted him in 1996 and where he spent his first four seasons. Devoted to his physical fitness routine, Chara broke Chris Chelios’ previous NHL record for defensemen by playing in his 1,652nd regular-season game on Feb. 24 and has dressed for 68 of the Islanders’ first 77 games while averaging 18:40 of ice time. Coaches and teammates rave about Chara’s pure love of the sport as a reason he keeps going and they also rave about his leadership and mentorship, particularly of third-year defenseman Noah Dobson, who has set career highs in goals, assists, and games this season. Chara can constantly be seen talking to Dobson on the bench, instructing him on the finer points of the game. Chara has always played a physical game but constantly shows sportsmanship, particularly after fights, patting his opponent to check to see if he’s all right or simply telling him he did a good job.

NY Rangers — Chris Kreider: Kreider has strung together a career season at age 30 and in his 10th year in the NHL, leading the Rangers by a significant margin in goals (50 and counting). Having been a streaky scorer his entire NHL career, Kreider transformed into a consistent producer this season who is just as noticeable without the puck as he is with it. Kreider has been viewed as the Rangers captain without the ‘C.’ Instead, the Massachusetts native has been at the heart of the six-alternate-captain group. After overcoming a blood clot that led to a rib resection in 2017, Kreider has seemingly never taken another game for granted and plays as such.

Ottawa — Anton Forsberg: Over the past 12 months, Forsberg has been the epitome of resilience and dedication. The netminder was placed on waivers by three different clubs last season — Edmonton, Carolina, and Winnipeg. With his NHL future on precarious footing, he landed in Ottawa in March of 2021 and has since firmly established himself as a consistent and dependable presence in the crease for Ottawa. For his efforts, he recently signed a three-year contract extension with the Senators, a testament to his ability to overcome a period of uncertainty to establish himself as a full-time NHL goaltender.

Philadelphia — Kevin Hayes: This 29-year-old center had two abdominal surgeries before the season. In January, he had another procedure to drain fluid from the adductor region. That procedure was for an infection in his groin area. Because of the medical issues, Hayes has been in and out of the lineup all season, and he has18 points in 20 games since returning to the lineup on March 5. He has dedicated the season to his brother, Jimmy, a former NHL player who died suddenly on Aug. 23. He has also increased his leadership duties since long-time captain Claude Giroux was traded to Florida on March 19. In short, he has become a leader on and off the ice despite a year filled with heartbreak.

Pittsburgh — Brian Boyle: Boyle, 37, continues to display the attributes that made him a deserving Masterton winner while with the Devils. A Cancer survivor, Boyle did not play in the NHL during the shortened 2020-21 season, and many presumed his career at the top level was over. But he parlayed a tryout camp contract with the Penguins into a regular role in Pittsburgh’s bottom six, serving coach Mike Sullivan — very much a Boyle advocate dating to their days with the Rangers — as a trusted defensive specialist, leading one of the NHL’s best penalty kills a season after the Penguins were among the poorer clubs at denying opposing power-play goals. Boyle quickly won over the Penguins’ locker room and has filled a valuable leadership role.

St. Louis —Vladimir Tarasenko: Tarasenko underwent three separate surgeries on his left shoulder in a span of 28 months. Many thought he’d never be the same player again. He requested a trade and Blues GM Doug Armstrong found no takers. The Seattle Kraken took a pass on him in the expansion draft. Tarasenko is still a member of the Blues and the club couldn’t be happier. After playing just 34 games in 2019-20 and ‘20-21, the 30-year-old is the team leader in goals and points, and he’s set a new career-high in assists.

San Jose — Brent Burns: “He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever dealt with.” That’s what Bob Boughner said recently of Burns, and that’s why Burns, in his age-36 season, is on pace to play over 2,120 minutes. That would put him in the top-five of most-played 36-plus skaters since the NHL started officially tracking ice time in 1998-99. Burns is also on pace to be the only NHL player to top over 2,100 minutes played this year.

Seattle — Jaden Schwartz: Jaden Schwartz was coming off a difficult year in which he struggled through injury and the unexpected death of his father. He emerged as a leader of an expansion Kraken squad, sitting second in total points with 20 in 29 games before suffering a Dec. 29 hand injury against Philadelphia. Schwartz underwent surgery on the hand and wound up missing more than two months. But he returned in March against Washington and played in eight more games before an upper-body injury effectively finished his season.

Tampa Bay — Alex Killorn: Killorn, 32, broke his fibula in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but planned on returning for a Game 6 or Game 7 if needed following surgery to insert a rod in his leg. The veteran wing bounced back with one of the best seasons of his career, entering Saturday with a career-high 54 points and just his second 20-plus goal season. Killorn has been a consistent part of the leadership group for several years and certainly displays the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. As former teammate Blake Coleman once put it, “He’s got his fingerprints all over this team. There’s not many things he doesn’t do for us.” Killorn has been active in the community over the years, with his “Dock Talk” Instagram jetski show raising more than $50,000, which all went to the Hillsborough Education Fund. He also co-hosted with Ryan McDonagh a “Jam Kancer in the Kan” KanJam tournament a couple of years ago, and that event raised $102,000 for the Adolescent and Young Adult program at Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center. Killorn was also the Tampa chapter’s Masterton nominee in 2020.

Toronto — Ondrej Kase: Kase will not give up his NHL dream despite a series of head injuries. When misfortune is not sidelining the 26-year-old Czech winger, he has kept up a seven-year battle to stay in the lineup, that began as a seventh-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks (205th overall) in 2014. When active, he’s recognized as one of the league’s top two-way forwards, averaging .48 points a game in his time with the Ducks, Boston Bruins, and this past season as a free agent with the Maple Leafs. Yet to play a full season in the league and held to just three games in the 2020-21 campaign with Boston because of concussions, this year began with great promise. Kase earned a spot on a competitive Toronto team and praise for both his defensive work, shot-blocking, and cashing in scoring chances. Before his latest concussion on March 19 in a game against Nashville, in which he had to be helped off the ice and had to be talked out of trying to return by medical staff, he had goals in three of the past four games. Kase hopes to return before or during the playoffs.

Vancouver — Luke Schenn: This veteran defenceman has proven to be a calming presence this season on the Vancouver blueline. He’s spent much of the season alongside Quinn Hughes and hasn’t looked out of place, a strong statement of how hard he’s worked in recent seasons to reinvent his game. He’s still got a hard edge, but his defensive positioning and his first pass make him a player who, at 32, remains essential to this lineup.

Vegas — Jack Eichel: Eichel has shown perseverance and dedication to the sport, returning to play at a high level following an 11-month absence due to a neck surgery never before performed on an NHL player. Eichel helped pave the way for others, such as Tyler Johnson, to consider the artificial disc replacement surgery as an option, and set an example for players around the league in standing his ground on players’ medical rights.

Winnipeg — Josh Morrissey: Morrissey overcame the off-season death of his father Tom to cancer to put together one of the best seasons of his NHL career. Morrissey raised more than $3,700 for Cancer Care by auctioning off a “game worn” purple velvet blazer as a tribute to his dad, who loved fashion. Morrissey is active in the community, serving as an ambassador for The Dream Factory and hosting The Josh Morrissey Classic, an event that raised nearly $300,000 for Manitoba children battling life-threatening diseases during the first three years. Morrissey also started his own foundation called Glass Half Full Foundation, which helps raise funds for various Mental Health programs in Winnipeg and Calgary. Not only has Morrissey exuded the qualities of perseverance and dedication, but he’s also set career highs for goals (12) and points (34) while serving as an alternate captain.

Washington — Nicklas Backstrom: Nicklas Backstrom last offseason noticed problems with his left hip, which was surgically repaired in 2015. It was enough to keep him off the ice for training camp and the start of the season. While turning 34, Backstrom went through a grueling rehab process off the ice before he could even start skating again in the hopes of returning to the Washington Capitals. Backstrom missed Washington’s first 28 games before making his season debut in mid-December. The veteran Swede in March recorded his 1,000th career point and remains at almost a point-a-game rate in his NHL career.

Stevens remembered by PHWA members

By W.G. Ramirez

PHWA Social Media Coordinator

Countless stories from PHWA members revealed the late Neil Stevens, a distinguished sportswriter whose humility and kindness were infectious among his peers and the sport of hockey.

“It says a lot about his immense writing talent that he was recognized with the Elmer Ferguson Award despite the fact that the last thing he ever craved was attention,” The Athletic senior columnist Pierre LeBrun said. “To me, he was the people’s hockey writer.

“The man we called Loose Leaf was a joy to be around.”

Stevens, a multi-sport Hall of Fame honoree in hockey and lacrosse who spent more than three decades (34 years) with the Canadian Press, died after a battle with cancer at 74 years old.

Stevens covered eight Olympic Games, 20 Stanley Cup finals, four Canada Cup hockey tournaments, 22 world figure skating championships, and eight National Lacrosse League Champions Cup games – just to name a few – before retiring in 2008.

“A mentor to some, a friend to all, and a Hall of Fame chronicler of our sport, Neil Stevens left his mark on so many across the hockey world,” PHWA president Frank Seravalli said. “We mourn his passing, but the stories told by those who knew him best will stand the test of time, knowing they won’t be forgotten.”

Like LeBrun’s recollection of Stevens’ coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals.

“He made a point at every Stanley Cup Final to ask players which coaches they remembered from their youth and wanted to thank,” LeBrun recalled. “He would write a story assembling all those coaches’ names. It was such a Neil thing to think of. ”

Away from the rink, LeBrun added, Stevens appreciated life, good music, and a good dive bar with media peers.

Longtime Canadian sportswriter for The Globe and Mail David Shoalts shared a story from the 2001 World Junior Hockey Championship in Moscow, where media members made The Hungry Duck their “headquarters” for postgame gatherings

“In addition to live music, it had a lot of Westerners from the oil business as customers,” Shoalts remembered. “Also on hand were a large number of attractive young women, who called themselves “students.” They were interested in a share of the oil money and for $100 U.S. dollars they would gladly accompany any takers home.”

Shortly after Stevens, Shoalts and others got there the first night, a couple of those “‘students’ sidled up to” the reporters with one of them asking Stevens in a thick Russian accent, “‘Vould’ you like some company?”

“Loose Leaf looked up and said, “Sure. It’ll cost you 75 bucks,” Shoalts said. “The ‘students’ must have heard the recess bell because they scattered.”

Sportsnet senior columnist Mark Spector relived a moment during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when the humanitarian in Stevens surfaced.

“Loose decided he had seen enough of a group of caged kangaroos outside the media center,” Spector said. “Alas, his attempt to cut through the fencing was thwarted when the exterior layer was found to be electrified. Neil the Emancipator, we called him, once he got over what was a sizeable jolt.”

Surely not the jolt of electricity Stevens gave the hockey world, and certainly not the jolt felt this past week when he was called home.

“I have so many stories,” LeBrun said. “But what’s consistent was his love of life. His ability to enjoy the little moments on the road.

“There was only one Loose Leaf.”

PHWA mourns the loss of trailblazing member Robin Herman

Robin Herman refused to accept anything short of equal access for women covering the National Hockey League – no matter the sexist taunt or crude comment thrown her way.

And she heard them all.

“Go ahead if you want to see nude men,” Herman was told by Atlanta Flames coach Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion in 1974.

Some players clutched their towels when Herman entered. Others thought it would be funny to yank away a teammate’s towel during an interview.

Once, Toronto Maple Leafs manager Harold Ballard said that women would be allowed to ask players questions after games if they also took off all of their clothes.

She persisted nonetheless.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association is mourning the passing of Herman, a pioneer member who broke the hockey media’s gender barrier as one of the first female reporters to enter a professional sports locker room. Herman died this week at 70 after a battle with ovarian cancer, her family told the New York Times.

Herman was the PHWA’s lone female member in 1974-75. After being denied at various team facilities throughout the league, she burst through at the 1975 All-Star Game in Montreal, when the game’s coaches – Fred Shero and Bep Guidolin – said they had no problem with a woman entering the locker room.

Herman, just 23 at the time, and Montreal-based radio reporter Marcelle St. Cyr broke the barrier when they walked into those Forum locker rooms, forging a path forward for so many women interested in covering pro sports.

“Every female sportswriter and TV sports personality owes a great debt to Robin Herman,” said Los Angeles Times columnist Helene Elliott, the PHWA’s only female president and Elmer Ferguson Award winner.

“If not for her and her insistence on being allowed to do a job she was eminently qualified to do, the door would never have opened for hundreds of women who followed because she made it possible.”

Elliott said she recently spoke a young male journalist and mentioned that early in her career she was not allowed into many locker rooms.

“He had no idea that had ever been the case,” Elliott said. “If not for Robin and Lawrie Mifflin and Mary Flannery and a few others, equal access might have come about far more slowly than it did.”

To be fair, the Professional Hockey Writers Association was not initially inclusive when it came to accepting female members. Former PHWA president Kevin Allen learned while documenting the organization’s history that New York-based reporter Shirley Fischler asked the Human Rights Commission in 1970 to investigate the PHWA’s practice of only admitting men. The PHWA’s senior leadership at the time never replied to Fischler.

In 1972-73, two seasons later, the PHWA reconsidered and allowed female members. Herman was the organization’s lone female member in 1974-75 while covering the New York Islanders for the New York Times.

By the time Larry Brooks began covering the Islanders for the New York Post in 1976, it was the norm for women to be covering hockey in New York, in part because of Herman’s courage of conviction.

“Robin was a trailblazer,” Brooks said on Thursday. “We had several women covering New York hockey teams – Robin, Lawrie Mifflin, Helene Elliott, Mary Flannery, Robin Finn. That was just business as usual for me. Robin and I were friends. She was a pro’s pro, sharp, excellent reporter, could write [well]. She was tough, as all the women had to be in order to make it.”

Herman moved to the New York Rangers beat in 1978, ending her five-year run covering hockey in 1979 with a move to the paper’s metropolitan desk. It wasn’t until 1987 – some 12 years after Herman first entered the locker room at All-Star weekend – that the NHL formally instituted media regulations that granted league-wide access for all accredited journalists, regardless of gender.

Herman later wrote for The Washington Post and spent 13 years at Harvard University’s School of Public Health as assistant dean for communications before retiring in 2012. While retired, Herman began an appropriately titled blog “The Girl in the Locker Room,” which is how she will be forever remembered in the organization.

“Fittingly, the dressing room Robin set foot in was that of the storied Montréal Canadiens,” said current PHWA member Erin Brown. “Above the stalls is the message: ‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.’ I always thought that was perfect for such a historic moment, and a reminder to all of us women who have pursued careers in sports. We’ve got the torch, Robin. I hope we’re doing our part to hold it high for the next generation of girls as you did for us.”

The Professional Hockey Writers Association sends sincere condolences to Herman’s husband, Paul Horvitz, as well as her two children, Eva and Zachary, and two grandchildren.

To read more about Herman, please visit her obituary in the New York Times.

PHWA’s 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy ballots: Vasilevskiy’s resounding win

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was selected as the 55th winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup playoff MVP by a panel of Professional Hockey Writers Association members.

Collecting his league record fifth consecutive shutout in a series-clinching game, dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final in the Edmonton bubble, Vasilevskiy garnered 15 first-place votes among 18 available ballots. He edged teammate Nikita Kucherov, who led the postseason in scoring with 32 points, by an 82-60 voting point margin.

Lightning forward Brayden Point finished third, while defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price also received votes.

Vasilevskiy became the first goaltender to win the Conn Smythe since Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick in 2012. He is just the first European-trained goaltender to capture the award, as all 14 previous winners were born and trained in the United States or Canada.

Vasilevskiy, 26, was between the pipes for every second of the Lightning’s playoff run for the second year in a row. He started all 23 games, posting a 1.90 goals against-average and a .937 save percentage, becoming the first goaltender since Ken Dryden (1976-1978) to win the Stanley Cup in consecutive years while allowing an average of under 2.00 goals per game.

In the interest of full transparency, the PHWA has once again revealed each individual ballot for all 18 Conn Smythe voters.

Voting point totals:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay: 82 points (15 first place)
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay: 60 points (3 first place)
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay: 16 points
Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay: 3 points
Carey Price, Montreal: 1 point

Points were awarded on a 5-3-1 basis and the deadline to submit ballots occurred with 10 minutes remaining in Game 5.

PHWA reveals 2021 NHL Awards ballots

TAMPA, Fla. — Since 1967, the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) has been counted on to independently vote on six major NHL Awards, as well as end-of-season All-Star and All-Rookie teams.

For the fourth consecutive year, the PHWA has revealed the ballot of each individual voter in the interest of full transparency.

“This was an incredibly unique season to evaluate Awards winners,” said PHWA President Frank Seravalli. “When the NHL was forced to pivot to intradivision play by the COVID-19 virus, our organization also pivoted to ensure the fairest possible selection process.

“We’re so proud of the countless hours our voters put into their ballots – researching, watching at the rink and at home, and gathering opinions from trusted sources to make sure we got it right.”

Faced with the challenge of comparing individual season’s across four silos of intradivision-only play, the PHWA’s Executive Board made a significant change to the voting process. The voting bloc was pared down to 100 voters, well short of the typical 175 voters, to include 94 members plus an invited panel of six international broadcasters.

The PHWA selected 20 members based in each of the four divisions (East, Central, North and West), in addition to 20 at-large international members/broadcasters.

The goal was to create geographical balance, removing the unprecedented disparity in divisional representation among voters created by intradivision play. The Executive Board felt this better balanced approach would also offset the fact that many of members only regularly viewed the seven or eight teams in their own division for the first time in modern voting history.

This season, all 100 ballots distributed were returned on-time and without error.

Each individual vote can be viewed at the links below:

Hart Memorial Trophy

James Norris Memorial Trophy

Calder Memorial Trophy

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

All-Star Team: Center

All-Star Team: Left Wing

All-Star Team: Right Wing

All-Star Team: Defense

All-Star Team: Goaltender

All-Rookie Team: Forward

All-Rookie Team: Defense

All-Rookie Team: Goaltender

The PHWA wishes to congratulate all 2021 NHL Award winners and finalists on their well-deserved honors.​​

PHWA mourns the passing of Toronto Star titan Frank Orr

A legend to most, a mentor to all young journalists, the Professional Hockey Writers Association mourns the passing of legendary member William “Frank” Orr on Feb. 13, 2021.

Orr, a titan at the Toronto Star for more than four decades, was the 1989 recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Award as a media honouree in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was 84.

Orr was the PHWA’s No. 3 card holder at the time of his passing, the organization’s second-longest living lifetime member. In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement award from Sports Media Canada and was inducted into the Etobicoke (Ont.) Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Tributes poured in from around the hockey world on Saturday as news of Orr’s passing spread.

Past PHWA president Mark Spector recalled his time as a young Oilers beat writer, once phoning Orr for information the day before a game.

“He was somebody. I was nobody,” Spector tweeted. “Graciously, he emptied his notebook​. He taught us all about decency and enjoying the job. And restaurants.”

Orr was famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of the finest restaurants in any city on any continent. He was equally remembered for his brilliantly funny one-liners.

“I didn’t know we broke any windows,” was often Orr’s response when big bill arrived at the table. Then he’d wrestle the cheque away from his dining companions.

A few other Orr favourites: “I’m not saying the Leafs are bad, but is f***-up hyphenated?” Or: “I’ve bet on horses smaller than that [Eric] Lindros kid.”

During a particularly conservative Ducks-Red Wings game, Elliott Teaford recalled Orr quipping: “It’s the dump without the chase.”

Orr’s legend spanned the ocean. Longtime PHWA member Lance Hornby shared a story of over-served Finnish writers spotting Orr at a bar during the 1989 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Oooor! Ooooor! They kept yelling at our table, then came over to pepper him with a million questions,” Hornby tweeted. “It was like traveling with a rock star.”

Orr’s career began as a radio announcer in Chatham and Sault Ste Marie, Ont. He then served as sports editor with the Guelph Mercury and Cornwall Standard-Freeholder before joining the Toronto Star in 1961. At the Star, Orr covered everything from college football to horse racing, while his major beat was hockey – from junior to the National Hockey League and world championships.

Orr wrote more than 30 sports books and contributed to more than 60 additional titles. He also covered the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, as well as auto racing and figure skating – including 12 World and Olympic championships.

“As an American hockey writer in the 1970s, before social media, when I walked into a Canadian rink and saw a Frank Orr, a Red Fisher, I felt real awe: ‘Whoa. These guys write hockey IN CANADA!’,” tweeted fellow Elmer Ferguson winner Frank Brown. “They were the iconic print voices of hockey where it is the official winter sport.”

Scores of kids across Canada read the Star wanting to emulate Orr. Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons tweeted: “Growing up, everyone on my street wanted to be Bobby Orr. I wanted to be Frank Orr.”

Fellow Elmer Ferguson Award winner and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted: “During the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs, 11-year-old me kept a scrapbook of all the articles written in The Star and The Telegram about the Leafs run to the Cup. I was as enamoured with the bylines of the reporters as the players they wrote about.”

When McKenzie, Simmons and others finally made it to the press box and rubbed elbows with Orr, they were treated like equals.

Former PHWA member Mike Zeisberger tweeted: “Sometimes your heroes disappoint. Not Frank.”

That’s why beyond his enormous accomplishments as a journalist, he was immediately remembered for his generosity and compassion toward young aspiring writers.

“The Man. Generous to young writers, great dinner companion, king of one-liners, with a soft spot for the everyday producers of prose on the hockey beat,” the Hall of Famer Cam Cole wrote. “Frank had a weak heart but a very big one. All his old media buddies can quote a few of his one-liners.”

Simmons tweeted that “one of the most important influences of my life has passed. … Thanks for all the laughs, the stories, the advice, the restaurant touts, the recipes, the emails.”

Cole also remembered being sick with food poisoning in Detroit, delirious while covering an Edmonton Oilers playoff game. Orr would wake his media colleague long enough to describe goals – “Kurri, one-timer, great setup by Gretz” – and Cole would write them down before passing out again.

“Every great man is unique, and there is no question that Frank Orr was one of a kind,” PHWA president Frank Seravalli said. “Reading all of the tributes come in from every corner of the hockey universe not only cemented his legend as a giant in hockey journalism, but showed that he meant so much to so many.”

Orr was preceded in death by Shirley, his wife of 57 years. The Professional Hockey Writers Association sends its sincere condolences to the Orr family.

Kevin Allen

PHWA: Fighting for fair media access since 1967

When sportswriters formed the National Hockey League Writers Association in 1967, it’s doubtful they anticipated that members would someday need to know how to storm a castle.

On Feb. 4, 1987, the organization’s president Scott Morrison (Toronto Sun) and a platoon of writers pushed past security and into the Toronto Maple Leafs post-game dressing room in violation of owner Harold Ballard’s edict that no media was allowed.

“Scotty was like King Arthur leading the charge,” recalled Toronto Sun writer Lance Hornby.

Ballard has closed the dressing room when the NHL had decreed that he had to grant the equal access to female reporters. Opposed to women in the dressing room, Ballard concentrated on “equal” being interchangeable with “the same” He ordered that no one, male or female, could interview players in the dressing room.

Even players were miffed that they had to do interviews in the hallways.

“It was brutal,” Morrison said. “There would be a lot of nights on the road where you would be in a barn like St. Louis Arena and [Maple Leafs public relations director] Bob Stellick would have to drag guys out of the room wrapped in a towel and nothing else. They were in filthy hallways in the bowels of arenas. The wind would blow through. Players were tired of it. None of us were getting any one-on-ones. We weren’t getting any traction complaining to the league.”

At the Cyrano bar in Toronto, Morrison met with the sports editors of all of the Toronto newspapers, plus the Hamilton Spectator. The battle plan was drawn up.

Not sure how anyone was going to react, writers steeled themselves like they were preparing for a street brawl.

“I remember saying to the late Tony Fitz-gerald before we went in, ” Hornby said, “I’ll see you on the other side.”

They pushed through the door in two waves: Morrison led the writers and then the radio and television people, not knowing exactly what was happening, formed the second attack force.

As everyone fanned out to conduct interviews, players began to laugh. “They thought it was a hoot,” Morrison recalled.

According to Hornby, Salming asked: “Is this Christmas?”

Not everyone thought it was funny. Ballard had his assistant wheel him down to meet the invaders. He was cursing and waving his cane. “He swung it at a Toronto Globe and Mail photographer,” Hornby said.

Now 33 years later, veterans of that skirmish say the most amazing aspect of the charge of the writer’s brigade, is that people kept the plan secret. “That’s really hard to do in Toronto,” Hornby said.

Later, Morrison said he “semi-apologized” to Stellick “for putting him in a bad position.”

Stellick had always been sympathetic to the writers’ position, but couldn’t do anything about it. But Morrison felt strongly that the writers had to do something bold.

Stellick had wondered why this Los Angeles-Toronto game on a Wednesday had drawn so many writers. Each paper had three or four people at the game. The press box was full.

“Stellick told me, “I couldn’t figure it out,” Morrison recalled.

The daring raid on the Maple Leafs’ dressing room didn’t immediately fix the problem. It was back to interviews outside the dressing room, with more security, at the next Toronto home game. “But it got the league’s attention,” Hornby said.

Morrison said NHL public relations director Gary Meagher, who was sympathetic to the writer’s cause, helped facilitate a meeting with NHL president John Ziegler at the draft. It was agreed that the league would change the bylaws to prevent Ballard, or any other owner, from using them to deny access.

The NHLWA, later renamed the Professional Hockey Writers Association, was formed with the idea that unity would give writers more strength in dealing with the NHL on problems. That turned out to be true, particularly in the early years of the organization.

Nashville Predators senior vice president Gerry Helper started as a public relations person with the Buffalo Sabres in 1979 and recalls the “PHWA had a fair amount of influence at that stage.”

In 1979, the NHL had grown from 17 to 21 teams by annexing World Hockey Association teams.

“If you think back about how fans got their information, it was through the writers,” Helper said. “So the writers carried a lot of clout. If the PHWA said, we need x amount of phones in the press box, the league and teams really worked to make that happen.”

In the early years, making sure women were allowed into the locker room, and treated appropriately, were always significant issues, even as late as the 1980s.

To put this issue into perspective, consider the PHWA didn’t allow women to join the organization up until the mid-1970s. Robin Herman (New York Times) was the PHWA’s only female member when she became the first woman to enter an NHL dressing room at the 1975 All-Star Game in Montreal.

“It was a sideshow for all terrible reasons,” said 2019 Elmer Ferguson winner Frank Brown, who was working at the game. “Which players were going to wear a towel and which ones weren’t? Was there going to be a scene at the doorway.”

Brown said Herman would have much preferred to just do her job without the spotlight.Her groundbreaking locker room appearance didn’t instantly transform the NHL dressing rooms into a female-friendly place.

Helene Elliott (Los Angeles Times) began working professionally at the Chicago Sun Times in 1977 and then went to Newsday in 1979 before moving to the LA Times in 1989. How difficult was it for women?

“Very,” Elliott says bluntly.

She said there were dozens of times when she had to overcome impediments to do her job.

“For a long time, the NHL let teams set policy for locker room access,” Elliott said. “There was no blanket edict from the league. That created a lot of problems. There were so few female sportswriters that we used to give each other tips. We would say such and such team is friendly, or say this team is going to be really tough, or avoid so and so or so and so will be really helpful.”

Duhatschek, a PHWA vice president for a decade, said Morrison did a lot of “the heavy lifting” formalizing access rules, including how female journalists were going to be treated in the NHL.

According to Duhatschek, NHL PR executive Gary Meagher was a PHWA ally in trying to firm up access policy.

“Those two worked together to do a lot of good in terms of developing policy and putting in firm rules,” Duhatschek recalled.

Their work was much needed. “People like Harold Ballard and Phil Esposito were not very welcoming to women,” Duhatschek said.

Duhatschek said the situation improved dramatically when Gary Bettman became the first NHL commissioner. “The foot dragging on policy stopped,” Duhatschek said. “Back then, he was very helpful to the Professional Hockey Writers Association.”

Elliott has an important place in PHWA history, because she is the only woman ever to serve as the organization’s president and the only woman to be honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame with the Elmer Ferguson Award.

She was president when PHWA members voted to stop accepting a $10,000 fee from the NHL for voting on NHL Awards. The money was partially used to fund a scholarship. The Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) had been pushing the PHWA to stop taking the stipend.

“I thought it was the right thing to do to stop taking the money, but it got really, really ugly,” Elliott recalled.

Not every member agreed with that decision. “It was hard,” she said. “A lot of us were told by our employers that we could not continue to be members if the (PHWA) continued to take money from the league.”

Even beyond the money, voting has long been a contentious issue. Some news outlets do not allow their sportswriters to vote because they see it as a conflict of interest. Some writers believe we shouldn’t vote because trophy race finishes can impact player bonus money. Some team executives believe writers shouldn’t vote on the awards because they didn’t play the game.

The voting procedure changed dramatically in 2003-04 when the PHWA expanded the pool of eligible voters.

Prior to then, each NHL city only had two votes. Writers would split votes. Some writers would vote only for the Hart Trophy or Norris Trophy. Another writer would vote on All-Star teams. Some highly qualified voters received no votes at all.

The problem with that process was that too few people were determining winners. If people forgot to vote, 60 votes would drop to 58 or 57. If someone left an obvious choice off his or her ballot, it could have a significant impact on the outcome.

It also meant some highly qualified voters – national coverage reporters – received no votes at all.

Plus, it was possible, under this system, that a center could win the Hart Trophy and not be named 1st team All-Star center because different groups were voting on those two honors.

Team officials preferred the old system because it had geographic balance. Every city received two votes. It seemed fair to old school executives.

But the PHWA approached the NHL about accepting that a qualified voter is a qualified voter regardless of where they live. The PHWA group argued that increasing the number of voters diminished the impact of outliers.

In days gone by, it made sense to limit the number of voters. You didn’t receive much information about what was happening in other NHL cities. In today’s technology world, a New York sportswriter knows as much about Los Angeles, Arizona and Vancouver as he or she knows about their old team.

Today, the PHWA has almost three times as many voters as it had in 2002-03. The results have shown that this voting system, with a larger sampling of quality voters, works effectively.

Not all of the PHWA history is as serious as voting issues and bold protests. Not every issue needs to be debated with passionate rhetoric. Duhatschek tells the story of how an off-hand suggestion by a part-time writer led to a change in NHL Awards.

In the early 1980s, Jack Newman was the Sports Information Director of the University of Calgary. He also worked as a stringer at Calgary Flames’ games for the Canadian Press. That earned him the right to join the Calgary chapter of the PHWA.

“He said to us, ‘Why don’t we have an All-Rookie team?'” Duhatschek said. “He said baseball had one.”

Duhatschek told Newman he didn’t know the answer, but he would take the suggestion to the national meeting.

“I told our secretary-treasurer Don Wilno and he said: We never thought about it, but it’s a great idea,” Duhatschek said.

The NHL All-Rookie team was introduced the following season, in 1982-83. Newman was in the PHWA for a short time. But he had a lasting impact.