Connor Ingram wins the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey

Connor Ingram, the goaltender who shared his battle with an undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder that led him to drink to cope with anxiety and has blossomed into a full-time NHL player, has won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Ingram had a breakout performance for the Arizona Coyotes this past season, years removed from seeking and receiving help from the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, which is run jointly by the league and union and has been in the headlines lately for others' participation.

“You don’t do these things for awards. I did this to get my life back together," Ingram told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “The fact that you get recognized for it is something that a lot of people who put their life back together don’t get.”

The other finalists were Calgary's Oliver Kylington, who stepped away for more than a year and a half for mental health reasons, and Carolina's Frederik Andersen, who missed several months this season while dealing with blood clotting issues. The Masterton is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

“Those other two guys were more than deserving, so just to be in that group and to be a part of it’s pretty exciting,” Ingram said.

Ingram was on Nashville's practice squad early in the pandemic-delayed and shortened 2021 season when he went into the player assistance program and left the Predators in late January. He returned to play a handful of games for the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League that spring, but it wasn’t until he sold his house and cars and moved from his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to Nashville that summer that he met his fiancée and got back on track.

“I just restarted,” he said. “It was good for me, and it was good to restart.”

Ingram made his NHL debut Oct. 24, 2021 — roughly nine months after going into the program — and appeared in four playoff games in the spring of 2022 when Juuse Saros was sidelined by injury and David Rittich faltered in the first-round opener. Claimed off waivers by Arizona in October 2022, he has since made 74 starts, sharing the net with Karel Vejmelka, who has become a friend and a seatmate on buses and planes.

“Half the time when I got something I want to talk about, he wants to talk about it, too,” Ingram said. “We’re pretty similar and we think a lot the same, so he’s a great guy to have around.”

Now 27 and with Utah after the franchise relocated there to begin play in Salt Lake City in the fall, Ingram hopes his best hockey is ahead of him after taking advantage of the opportunities he eventually got to show what he could do.

“I felt like I was a guy who just never went away,” he said. “I played seven years in the minors and just slowly grinded my way until you get that opportunity. That’s all you can ask for is a chance, and when somebody gives it to you, you better be ready to go with it or else it’s not going to last very long.”

Utah general manager Bill Armstrong said the organization was proud to be represented by Ingram.

“Connor’s journey through adversity and his unwavering commitment to the game of hockey truly embodies the essence of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy,” Armstrong said. “Since his return, Connor has not only excelled on the ice but has emerged as an inspiration to hockey players across the globe as he continues to tell his story and emphasize the importance of seeking support during life’s darkest moments."

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

05/16/2024 00:00 -0400

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