Taylor Pyatt: The Missing Masterton Finalist

It's kind of difficult to actually root for someone to win the Masterton Trophy. In most cases, it's the "You've had the most terrible injury but come back" award, but this year's crop features three unique finalists. Tampa Bay's Kurtis Foster certainly fits into that category, as he came back from a nasty broken leg several years back to be one of Tampa's best defensemen. Jed Ortmeyer nearly quit hockey because of his blood-thinning disease, but the currently injured forward has been a key checking forward for the San Jose Sharks. And Jose Theodore overcame the most devastating of tragedies, as he lost his infant child yet managed to find a way to regain his professional focus.

All compelling stories representing different types of resiliency. While I'm not advocating one over the other, I'm kind of surprised that Taylor Pyatt of the Phoenix Coyotes isn't in this mix. This isn't meant to demean Foster or Ortmeyer, but Pyatt and Theodore both are overcoming the shocking loss of a loved one. While the Coyotes' Masterton nomination was Vernon Fiddler, I'm not sure why Pyatt's story was lost in the mix.

If you don't know what happened, here's a quick refresher -- in April 2009, Pyatt was a member of the Vancouver Canucks. He was due to be married in the off-season to his high school sweetheart and was looking forward to a good playoff run with the Canucks. On April 2, Pyatt received a middle-of-the-night phone call with tragic news: his fiance had been killed in a car accident while on vacation. Here's what he told James Duthie of TSN:

"We had a game at home that night against Anaheim. I just went home and had something to eat, and went to sleep. I got a call at 2:30 a.m. from Carly's brother. I was still half asleep, I didn't know what he was saying. I couldn't comprehend it. I just dropped the phone. Then I got a call about 15 seconds later from her Dad. He said Carly had been killed in a car accident. I couldn't believe it... I kept asking him over and over, 'Are you sure, are you sure?'  I was in total shock."

...

"It was just a devastating time for me. I got on a flight and went home right away. I was surrounded by my family for the next few weeks, but I was in total shock. The first few days, making funeral arrangements, making plans to get her back... her body back, all those sort of things you thought you would never do, especially at this point of your life. I remember asking myself, 'Are you really doing this?'"

From all accounts, Pyatt was looking to find a place to heal away from the spotlight, which meant going to a market where it wasn't hockey 24/7. Even now, it sounds like he doesn't want the attention, doesn't want to be known as the guy who's still in mourning. He just wants to be a hockey player with a gigantic Game 7 tonight.

Perhaps, then, it's fitting that Pyatt wasn't nominated by his local hockey writers for the Masterton -- and maybe he even requested to stay away from the spotlight. For guys that come back from injury like Foster, or for guys that overcome a disease like Ortmeyer, it can be a bit of validation that their hard work means something. For someone like Theodore, he can use it to promote the charity established in memory of his child. But for a guy like Pyatt, I imagine it'd be a bittersweet thing. On one hand, he'd know that he has the support and respect of his peers, but on the other hand, it's just more spotlight for a guy who wants to focus on hockey right now.

How long does it take to heal from something like that? There's no right answer, and for Pyatt, it sounds like the best place for him is on the ice. The fact that he's overcome this tragedy to become a valuable forward on a surprise Phoenix squad is something to be recognized, award or not.

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