The National Hockey League today announced its three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, presented annually to “the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season.”
This year’s finalists are Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks, Daniel Alfreddson of the Senators and Dustin Brown of the Kings. Messier solicits suggestions from club and league personnel and NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates, then makes his final selection from the three finalists.
The award was first given in 2007 to defenseman Chris Chelios and has since been won by Mats Sundin, Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, Zdeno Chara and Shane Doan.
As you can see by their profiles below, Toews, Alfredsson and Brown are certainly worthy candidates. But if you were to choose a Messier Award candidate from the Capitals, whom would it be?
The first player that comes to my mind is center Matt Hendricks.
A two-time nominee for the Bill Masterton Award for dedication and perseverance to the sport of hockey, Hendricks is one of those rare breeds of hockey players willing to take a puck in the face to win a hockey game yet also willing to quietly lend his support every good cause that comes his way.
On the ice, Hendricks is a hard-edged fourth-line center who led the Caps in penalty minutes , was second among forwards with 31 blocked shots and was third among forwards in hits with 93.
Last week, before Game 7 against the Rangers, Hendricks was struck in the mouth by a deflected puck during practice. He left the ice for treatment, and when his teammates were filing into the dressing room, Hendricks was seen strapping on his helmet to complete his on-ice workout. “Gotta go practice tipping the puck,” Hendricks said, his jaw a bright red.
Off the ice, during the NHL lockout, it was Hendricks who visited wounded Navy Seal Bo Reichenbach at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and invited him to join a handful of Capitals at an informal practice in Arlington. A few weeks later, Reichenbach, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, played goaltender in a pickup game with the Caps.
When the season started, Hendricks threw his support behind the league’s “You Can Play” initiative, taping a public address announcement in which he stated, “It’s time to end casual homophobia.”
And in early March, Hendricks was among a handful of Capitals who skated with military families who lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Capitals’ involvement with TAPS [Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors].
Feel free to share you thoughts on Hendricks or other worthy candidates below:
Mark Messier Award nominees, courtesy NHL public relations:
Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators
Alfredsson, the NHL’s longest-serving active captain, leads the Senators in numerous categories, including games played, goals, assists and points. He has taken a leadership role off of the ice as well, working with the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health and the Sens Foundation. Alfredsson has supported the Boys and Girls
Club of Ottawa for the past 10 seasons, purchasing tickets and suites for club members to attend Senators games and serving as title sponsor of Ringside for Youth, the club’s primary fundraising event during the season. Since 2008, he also has been the spokesperson and champion for the Royal’s “You Know Who I Am” campaign, leading the way to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. In addition, Alfredsson has supported the Royal’s “Do It for Daron” campaign to assist in raising the profile of youth mental health issues.
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
Brown has spent his entire nine-year NHL career with the Kings, serving as their captain for the past five seasons. He was selected as the Kings’ Most Popular Player this season and is known for his physical playing style, which consistently places him among the League leaders in hits. Capitalizing on his aggressive style of play to help others, Brown makes a $50 donation for each hit he delivers to his opponents – a contribution he has made since the 2008-09 season. Those benefiting from this charitable initiative include the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and KABOOM!, a relationship that has raised $60,000 and culminated with a special playground built in Carson, Calif., in September 2010.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Toews was named captain of the Blackhawks in 2008 when he was just 20, making him the third-youngest captain in NHL history at the time. While his leadership on the ice is undisputed, his role off the ice with various children’s charitable causes makes him an undeniable role model to fans. In his spare time, Toews volunteers to grant wishes through
the Make-A-Wish Foundation and visits with patients at the local children’s hospital and Chicago’s Misericordia. Last fall, he returned home to join the Winnipeg Patrolmen Hockey Club and other NHL players for the “Goals for Dreams Hockey Challenge,” which helped raise $80,000 for the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Dream Factory, a charity that grants dreams for critically and chronically ill children.