Steve Sullivan, of the Nashville Predators, won the Bill Masterton Trophy at the NHL Awards Ceremony that was held at the Pearl Theater in the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
The Masterton Trophy is given annually to the player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
Sullivan quipped after receiving the award that “it’s not a trophy that you want to be in a position to win.” He was not being ungracious, but pointing out the adversity that he underwent to qualify for the nomination.
Sullivan missed two years of play due to a fragmented disc in his back that required two surgeries and many months of rehabilitation in order to make a return to the ice.
Sullivan claimed that the two years were a “roller coaster ride.” He said that “getting back and playing was the most important thing, and this (award) was icing on the cake. I’m an NHL player and that’s what I want to do so putting in the hard work wasn’t all that difficult.”
When asked if he every thought of quitting Sullivan said, “There was never a point where I thought of giving up. There was always some good days and I always thought that if I could string them together, then I would be back. I never really thought it was over.”
Sullivan explained that he knew that he was ready to play before his first game on January 10. ‘We had tested every situation and made sure that we weren’t putting me in a position to fail.”
Describing his return to the ice he said, “The ovation that they (Nashville fans) gave me in my first game back was one of the moments that I’ll never forget. It was a very emotional time and for them to thank me with a standing ovation was really neat and I really appreciate it.”
Before the telecast I was able to talk to Sullivan about where he would be playing next season. He claimed, “I really hope it’s in Nashville. My agent and David (Pred’s GM Poile) are talking and I really hope we can find some middle ground and make it work.”
Sullivan plans on making Nashville his permanent home regardless of where he plays next year, “My family and I love it there and we’re always going to keep our house in Nashville and call it home.”
On Friday, Predator’s GM David Poile met with the local media and sounded less optimistic about resigning Sullivan, indicating that he was going to continue negotiations but expected that Sullivan would go to the July 1 deadline and test the free agent waters.
Regardless of where Sullivan plays next season, he will always be considered in high regard by the Nashville fans and will hold claim to being the first Predator to win an NHL post-season award.