WILMINGTON -- Unrelenting perseverance and unwavering courage through serious injury is something that’s almost rote in NHL circles, where hockey players pride themselves on being able to play through anything.
Unfortunately Adam McQuaid has had to prove that hockey truth over and over again this season through a merciless rash of injuries, big and small. Through it all the Prince Edward Island native displayed his toughness and dedication to his Bruins organization, his teammates and to the game of hockey by continually popping back up when misfortune struck him down.
That unflagging spirit and dedication is why Adam McQuaid is the nominee of the Boston chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Masterton Trophy, which recognizes those “who best exemplify the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” The last Bruins player to win the Masterton Trophy was forward Phil Kessel in 2007 after returning to play following surgery for testicular cancer.
After McQuaid missed last year’s playoffs due to a concussion suffered following a late-season hit by Washington’s Jason Chimera, a season-threatening illness hit the rangy defenseman before this year even began.
While skating at Harvard University in September during the NHL lockout, McQuaid’s right arm blew up like a Goodyear blimp after informal workout among a scattering of Bruins players. The defenseman didn’t know what was wrong at first, and actually drove home to Prince Edward Island from Boston while his right arm grew more swollen with each mile.
McQuaid had to stop twice at hospitals to get his arm checked out before finally getting the diagnosis: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which was causing dangerous blood clots to form in his body.
He needed two immediate surgeries. One removed the blood clot causing the problem; the second removed one of his ribs and also some of the muscle on the right side of his neck. The medical procedures worked, but they also left McQuaid unable to work out and on blood thinners for months after the September operations.
McQuaid originally thought his season -- whenever it began in the wake of the lockout -- was over, as patients typically have to remain on blood thinners for six months after the surgery. But his recovery went so well that he was back skating by December.
Even more amazingly, McQuaid didn't a single training-camp practice once a labor agreement was reached in January. He was fully cleared and hasn’t had any adverse effects. The 26-year-old defenseman has played in 28 games with four points (1 goal, 3 assists) and a plus-1 rating after putting up a combined 25 points and plus-36 over the previous two seasons.
It continues to be a minor miracle McQuaid was on the ice at all this season after dealing with a gravely serious medical issue. The 6-foot-5, 209-pounder has also missed time because of a strained shoulder and a lower body issue (suffered from a hit to his legs by Matt Cooke). All of those health issues have given him some perspective on the season as he reflects on things.
“Maybe my outlook has changed a little bit,” said McQuaid. “I’m trying to make the most out of every day and enjoy each game . . . make sure I’m giving it my all. Hopefully there won’t be another situation where I miss time, but you never know.
“To be honest I think I’ve matured mentally because of all this. I’m trying to take a positive approach to everything. Unfortunately injuries are a part of the game, but I don’t want to change the way I approach the game. Maybe I put myself in situations where I can get dinged up, but I can’t change the way I play. It’s definitely something I’m going to reflect on at the end of the year.”
Through all the adversity McQuaid has maintained his pleasant way and gentlemanly smile off the ice, with a respectful, honest intensity on it. He’s the first to defend a teammate who’s been wronged on the ice, and is one of the key Bruins players to take on the responsibility of setting an emotional tone. He plays a physical brand of hockey as a solid stay-at-home defenseman, but that intensity never spills over into cheap shots or deliberate attempts to inflict pain when an opponent is in a vulnerable position.
In many ways McQuaid is a throwback to a day when all players put out an honest, hard effort with a quiet, modest style. The toughness and dedication in coming back so quickly from a season-threatening surgery for blood clots just screams out “old-time hockey.” All that and more makes the unassuming McQuaid the perfect candidate for the NHL’s Masterton Trophy.
Adam McQuaid has exemplified all of that and then some for the Boston Bruins this season.