On Monday morning the National Hockey League announced the 31 nominees for the 2020-21 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association in conjunction with the NHL, the Winnipeg chapter of the PHWA chose 25-year-old goaltender Eric Comrie as the player best suited for the annual recognition.
“It was really special,” Comrie said upon learning of his selection by the PHWA. “Hockey means a lot to me and to be the Jet nominee for this prestigious award means a lot to me. It’s hard to describe because I love the game so much and this really shows that you guys are noticing that I love the game. That means a lot to me because I truly love the game more than anything you can name.”
The annual award is presented at season’s end to the candidate who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship qualities and dedication to ice hockey. This usually ties in hand-in-hand with physical/mental health scares, off-ice troubles, or in Comrie’s case, perseverance through various moves.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re all hockey players,” he said. “It’s fun to practice and be with the guys, but at the end of the day, I still really want to play hockey. That’s what I love doing. I love playing in games. I love competing. I think it’s hard to practice every single day without an end goal. Right now, that’s what I’m kind of doing. We’re just practicing, practicing and practicing. There’s not really a goal to be ready for any single game to play. That’s kind of hard to almost try and prepare yourself for that.”
Unfortunately, Comrie has not been able to play much hockey this season. With the creation of the 4-6 man ‘taxi squad’, a number of goaltenders league-wide have not seen much action as both the American and National Hockey Leagues remain fully underway with two goaltenders per team. However, those ‘taxi squad’ netminders haven’t been able to see much game action.
“Being here, there’s not as many games to play, so you’re really getting that one-on-one coaching and getting dialed into the drills and skills and everything,” he said of the taxi squad. “You’re really hammering it down, so that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve just had a lot of fun being around the guys and just seeing Jet hockey. They play a great game and it’s been a lot of fun for me to be around it.”
Breaking into the AHL in 2015-16, Comrie has since become the all-time winningest goaltender in Manitoba Moose history, while owning a career 90-92-34 record to his name. In various NHL stints, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound backstop has a 3-5-0 record.
“People think I’m a lot older than I am because I’ve been here for so long,” Comrie said. “I’ve played a lot of games but I’m still only 25 years old. I’m still a young guy. And you know what? I’ve played a lot of hockey games, I love playing the game, I’ve had a lot of success for the Manitoba Moose, and it’s funny to say but I think the last two years have been some of the best growing I’ve done in my life.”
Adding to the equation is the fact that Comrie has bounced around off Waivers via two separate claims, a trade and then a return to Winnipeg all over the course of the past season-and-a-half.
But through it all, he remains grounded in his hopes of remaining a member of the Winnipeg Jets organization for the long term.
“It’s always difficult. It’s tough bouncing around. It’s always nice to be liked and when you’re picked up off waivers, someone is liking you. That’s always a good thing too. But it’s hard switching teams and not having a steady idea of where you’re going to be the next day. Never really unpacking because you’re kind of unsure where you’re going to be… The franchise means a whole lot to me. They have done so much for me, the Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Jets franchise has meant so much to me. And they’ve just been nothing but class to me since the day I got here.
Bill Masterton of Winnipeg, passed away in 1968 following a brain injury sustained while playing for the former Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. The award has been named in his honour. Alongside Comrie, Winnipeg, MB. product, Chris Driedger of the Florida Panthers has also been announced as the nominee out of Florida chapter for the award.
Three finalists will be selected from the list prior to a winner being announced.
The full list of all 31 nominees can be found below: