There are three qualities that identify a Bill Masterton Award nominee: Perseverance, Sportsmanship and Dedication to the sport of hockey.
On Thursday the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association named Joel Ward as the Capitals’ nominee for the annual award.
Earlier this season, at 33 years and 104 days, Ward became the eighth-oldest player to record 20 goals for the first time in his career. He’s already set career highs in goals  and points , but it’s the path Ward took to the NHL that makes him worthy of one of the NHL’s mot prestigious awards.
The youngest of three sons, Ward grew up in Scarborough, Ontario after his parents immigrated there from Barbados. When he was 14, he lost his father, Randall, who suffered a stroke while watching one of his bantam hockey games, leaving his mother, Cecilia, to raise three teenage boys.
“It’s always tough at these times because you always hope to share these moments with your parents,” Ward said. “My dad always believed in me, even before I did. He instilled in me the will and the belief that I can do this and make a living at it. My mother was a hard-working lady as well and we’ve been through a lot of obstacles, for sure. Believing in yourself and your dreams is real important.”
Ward was never drafted and after playing four years with the Owen Sound Platers of the OHL he decided to further his education and continue his playing career at the University of Prince Edward Island, where he graduated with a degree in Sociology. It wasn’t until he was 26 that Ward received an invitation to the Minnesota Wild’s training camp. He played three seasons in the AHL before getting a full-time job with the Nashville Predators in 2008 at the age of 28.
Ward, who wears No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, credits his success to his mother and her tireless work ethic, saying she worked two jobs as a nurse to support him and his brothers’ love of hockey.
Today, Ward continues to pay forward his love of hockey with his hands-on involvement in the Fort Dupont Hockey Program, a grass-roots development program that gives the inner-city youth of Washington, D.C. the opportunity to play organized ice hockey.
“When I was a kid in Toronto I grew up watching the Leafs and I knew what kind of stick Doug Gilmour had,” Ward said. “To see kids follow you and look up to you as a role model is a rewarding feeling because I’ve been there as well.”
Caps teammate Jay Beagle said the nomination “couldn’t go to a greater guy.”
“He’s a leader,” Beagle said. “He’s someone we all look up to. He’s having a great year and I know talking to him personally he really worked hard in the offseason and it’s showing.”