HE argued a strong case for his fellow NHL players during the lockout that lasted well into January but when informed that the Winnipeg chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association was nominating him for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey was nearly lost for words.
"(I'm) surprised," Hainsey said.
The award, voted on by PHWA members across the league, is given annually to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."
"If it's based on that, I appreciate that," Hainsey said. "It's not any sort of reason I was involved in it the way I was. But if it's seen that way, that's nice. It's something I took seriously as far as being involved, thinking I could help the players by doing it.
"It's unexpected. It's an honour, obviously, but unexpected."
Hainsey, 32, is in his eighth full-time NHL season. He played 244 AHL games in the Montreal Canadiens organization in Quebec and Hamilton -- 32 NHL games were mixed in -- before his chance arrived with a 2005 waiver claim by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Now a veteran of 586 NHL games, he missed just nine regular-season games in his first six seasons before a shoulder injury and a skate cut on his foot cost him 26 early-season games in the Jets' return to Winnipeg a year ago.
His nomination for the Masterton comes with the added combination of his advocacy for players and his own play for the Jets after the lockout ended.
He said his interest in the business matters of the game were sparked by exposure early in his pro career to the likes of Randy McKay, Doug Gilmour, Craig Rivet, Saku Koivu and Joe Juneau.
"When I was first starting, before the long lockout when they lost the season, just being around the league for a couple of years, the older players I got to play with that had been involved in 1994-95, as they were all getting prepared for this next one, they went out of their way to help me realize how important it was," Hainsey said. "That would be when I became aware and definitely more interested and aware of exactly (what) would be going on."
Hainsey's regular defence partner, Zach Bogosian, applauded the Masterton nomination.
"Playing with him now for five years as my D partner, obviously I'm pretty biased," Bogosian said. "He's a great player. I've really enjoyed playing with him and he's helped me out a lot, too, on and off the ice.
"He's a very vocal person in the room. He knows the game, whether it's something to do with the CBA or something to do with what's going on around the league. He has a lot of information about a lot of things. A lot of guys turn to him for a lot of stuff... but as a teammate, you can't get a much better one. What you see is what you get.
"He'll tell you how it is and that's the way it is and guys respect that from him. I think his play this year has been tremendous. He's really helped us out. Especially on the penalty kill."