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Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal Named Masterton Trophy Finalist

Persevering through tragedy to captain his team, Staal’s dedication to hockey was unquestioned this season.

Jamie Kellner

Update: Jordan Staal has been named one of three finalists for the Masterton Trophy, along with Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils and Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

Our story from March 27, when Staal was announced as the Hurricanes’ Masterton nominee, is below, followed by the release from the team.

Jordan Staal entered his sixth season with the Carolina Hurricanes as one of two captains, taking up the mantle once held by his brother. He knew that the spotlight was going to be on him, both in the locker room and on the ice. But it was how he responded to a personal tragedy that demonstrated the true nature of Staal’s character.

Staal’s selection as the Hurricanes’ 2018 Masterton Trophy nominee by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association is a fitting honor for a player who embodied perseverance and dedication to hockey through incomprehensibly trying circumstances.

Staal told the News and Observer in a story published last Saturday that he and his wife, Heather, had found out around Thanksgiving that their third daughter, Hannah, would likely not survive more than a few hours outside the womb. Diagnosed with anencephaly, Hannah’s brain would not develop correctly. While she would be fine before birth, that wouldn’t last once she entered the world.

And despite that, Staal told almost no one. He showed up to work every day and you’d have never known anything was amiss. How do you manage to post 19 points in 40 games with an unthinkable situation hanging over your head?

You do it by dedicating yourself to your craft. You do it by putting your head down and living up to the letter on your chest. You do it exactly how Jordan Staal did it.

Staal follows Derek Ryan, who was one of three finalists for last season’s Masterton Trophy, as the Canes’ nominee for the award. The franchise has never had a player win the Masterton, and likely won’t this season with the DevilsBrian Boyle overcoming leukemia to return to the NHL, but that’s not to minimize what Staal went through - and how he demonstrated exactly what a captain should be, not just to his teammates but to anyone who knows his story.

Jordan Staal is the engine that drives the Carolina Hurricanes. That much has been proven this season, in more ways than one. He has been a constant presence, win or lose, in the locker room after games. Despite a tragic situation no one could ever have predicted, he continued to do his job, and that’s a credit to him, to his family, and to his hockey club. Few players have persevered through more than Staal has this season, and his nomination is an acknowledgement of the obvious: this season, Jordan Staal has embodied a dedication to hockey.

Winner to be named June 20 at NHL Awards in Las Vegas

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal has been named as one of three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey. The winner will be named at the 2018 NHL Awards to be held June 20 in Las Vegas

Staal, 29, was nominated for the Masterton Trophy on March 27 by the Carolina chapter of the PHWA. In its news release announcing Staal as its nominee, the chapter stated:

Staal assumed an already bigger leadership role with the young Hurricanes this season, being named co-captain before the season.

He faced adversity on the ice, with Carolina headed toward its ninth-straight season without making the postseason, but nothing like the struggles he was dealing with off it. In late February, Staal and his wife, Heather, announced their daughter, Hannah, was delivered stillborn due to a terminal birth defect previously diagnosed by doctors.

The 29-year-old Staal missed just three games following the tragedy, and he was a key component of the Hurricanes and carried himself with dignity throughout the season while quietly dealing with his family’s adversity. This ability to lead and compete at a high level while going through such personal hardship embodies the spirit of the Masterton Trophy.

Staal registered 46 points (19g, 27a) in 79 games with the Hurricanes this season. The 6’4”, 220-pound center ranked sixth in the NHL in faceoff win percentage (56.6%, min. 1,000 faceoffs) and led the Hurricanes in hits (181) and shorthanded goals (2). Staal also ranked fourth on the team in goals, tied for fourth in multi-point games (8) and fifth in points and assists in 2017-18. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native played in his 800th NHL game on Dec. 27 against Montreal and scored his 200th NHL goal on Jan. 12 against Washington. In addition, he recorded a career-high four assists on Nov. 13 against Dallas. Staal was acquired by the Hurricanes on June 22, 2012, and has registered 234 points (86g, 148a) in 412 career games with the Hurricanes. He has earned 482 points (206g, 276a) in 843 career NHL games with Pittsburgh and Carolina.