Steve Sullivan was named NHL’s 2009 winner of the Masterton Trophy at the NHL Awards Banquet on Thursday.
The 34-year-old forward became the first Nashville Predators’ player to win one of the league’s top individual awards.
The Masterton Trophy is presented annually to a player in recognition of perseverance and dedication to the sport. It is named for Bill Masterton, who died in 1968 as a result of injuries sustained during a game.
Sullivan missed nearly two full years with a back injury, which required multiple surgeries.
He returned to action this past January and had 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 41 games, including 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists). The Predators were 22-14-5 with him in the lineup and 6-2-1 when he scored. Without him, they were 18-20-3.
With a cracking voice, his brief acceptance speech was a litany of thanks. Among those he recognized were:
• His wife and four children, “who were absolutely rocks throughout this two-year roller coaster ride.”
• Predators’ general manager David Poile and the orgnization as a whole “for allowing me to pursue all avenues to try to get back from this injury and allowing me all the time needed to get back.”
• His teammates “for never stop believing in me.”
• Finally, Predators’ fans “who stood behind me throughout this whole time.”
Local members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominate one player from each team for the award. The overall membership then votes from that list of 30.
In April, the top three vote-getters were named finalists. Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios and Florida forward Richard Zednik were the other two.
"Steve Sullivan epitomizes all the qualities that the Masterton Trophy stands for and we are thrilled that he has been recognized for all of the hard work and dedication he has shown to both our team, and the sport of hockey,” Poile said. “Not only did he serve as an inspiration for our team and community off the ice, but was a significant contributor to the club as he regained his form.”
Also on Thursday, the NHL announced its 2008-09 All-Star teams, and Nasvhille defenseman Shea Weber narrowly missed out  on a spot.