Maybe too many people looked for a singular form of excellence from Joel Ward. In so doing they ignored his consistency.
Not so for the Nashville Predators, who signed the 29-year-old forward as a free agent a little less than two years ago. Since then, Ward has produced in the same manner he has at every other stop on his career.
The persistence that brought him to this point and the steady level of play since he arrived in the NHL made Ward the Predators’ 2010 nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, presented annually to an NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.
“I probably played in every league possible before I got here,” Ward said. “Dreams do come true. Keep believing. That’s just kind of the path I’ve always taken. Obviously with a lot of dedication and hard work, anything is possible.”
Ward was chosen by the local chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Last year’s nominee, Steve Sullivan, was selected as the Masterton Trophy winner by a league-wide panel of PHWA members. That made Sullivan the first Nashville player to win one of the league’s major awards.
“It catches me off guard, but I’m very appreciative of it,” Ward said. “I guess when it’s a game you love so much, to be recognized at anything in it is special. It’s an honor, for sure.”
Ward played four seasons of junior hockey for Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League. He averaged 38 points per season but finished his career there without being drafted.
He then went to the University of Prince Edward Island, where he averaged 31 points of his four-year career. Among the awards he earned during his college career was the 2005 conference Most Sportsmanlike Player.
Minnesota signed him as a free agent in 2006, and he spent two years in that organization – primarily in the American Hockey League.
In two years with Nashville, he has been a full-time NHL player and has averaged 34.5 points.
“Everyone overcomes obstacles, some more than others,” Ward said. “But it’s a lot easier to achieve your goals when it’s something you love to do.”
• Patric Hornqvist is expected to miss Saturday’s regular season finale due to an upper body injury sustained in Wednesday’s 5-2 loss at Phoenix.
Based on the latest diagnosis, though, he is expected to be available next week when the playoffs start.
Hornqvist has played all but one of the 81 games this season (he was a healthy scratch on Dec. 5), leads the team in goals (30) and is tied with Sullivan for the lead in points (51).
• The first day of playoff action is next Wednesday, and indications are that regardless of where the Predators finish and who their first-round opponent is, they will play on that day.
Their home games for the opening series likely will be Sunday April 18, Tuesday April 20 and Sunday April 25.