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This article was published 27/3/2018 (1025 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Tyler Myers was put through the wringer as a father and as a hockey player last year.
The Winnipeg Jets defenceman and his wife, Michela, had to deal with the premature birth of their son, Tristan, and some serious health complications with the infant that followed.
Thankfully, the youngster pulled through and had his first birthday in January.
Compounding matters was the fact Myers was also sidelined for most of the 2016-17 NHL season due to recurring hip and groin problems.
So, when the good times roll for him — like they are now — it’s easy to be pleased for Myers, who hails from Houston, Texas, but spent his formative years in De Winton, Alta., just south of Calgary.
Myers has been selected by the Winnipeg chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association as the Jets’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The Masterton Trophy is awarded each season to the NHL player who best exemplifies qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
No disrespect to any of his teammates, but this was — for many reasons — a slam-dunk decision.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice considers the 10-year veteran a giant within the organization, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the former NHL rookie of the year’s six-foot-eight, 230-pound frame.
"The mental strength that it takes to go through what he went through last year, on and off the ice, and then the summer that he had in terms of rehab — and I’m knocking on wood here — to be able to have played all of the games this year, it’s inspirational," said Maurice.
"He has come back with a focus and an appreciation. (In) training camp he was wired. He was so focused and so driven and so hard in camp. Now, when he has any injuries, he’s determined to stay in that lineup, to stay healthy. He’s come back and been great for us."
After dressing for just 11 games a season ago, Myers is one of eight skaters for Winnipeg (46-19-10) who has played all 75 games this season. Game 76 is slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the surging Boston Bruins (47-17-10) visit Bell MTS Place.
Myers said he’s grateful for the Masterton nomination, adding he feels blessed things have worked out at home and at the rink.
"It means a lot, just to be nominated. It reminds me we went through a tough time last year and some things that we’re glad are in the past. To be where we are today with our little guy and what’s gone on with the team, it’s very exciting to be looking forward. It’s a good feeling right now," said Myers.
"A lot of things were put into perspective last year. It’s tough to describe a lot of the emotions that went on, but we’re glad some of those things are in the past. We’re having a lot of fun... with how our little guy is doing. It’s really looking up and that’s really exciting for my family."
Myers said the support from the entire Jets organization is overwhelming.
"It meant a lot, for sure. It’s a really tight group in the room here and the guys were great. They gave us a ton of support, not only them but the entire organization from coaches to management to everyone," he said.
"I’ll always be tied to this organization with whatever happens going forward, just with how good they were to our family in a tough time. I can’t thank them enough."
Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round (12th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft, Myers transitioned from brilliant junior to exceptional pro in a blink of an eye.
At just 19, he cracked the Buffalo roster out of training camp and went on to produce 11 goals and 48 points to win the Calder Trophy.
After five-plus seasons with the Sabres, he was acquired by Winnipeg in the mega-trade that saw Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian shipped to Buffalo during the 2014-15 season.
This is his most productive campaign in a Jets jersey, with six goals and 28 assists to his credit, playing alongside Dmitry Kulikov for the bulk of it and also some time with Josh Morrissey.
"Coming into this year, I was feeling good and I only felt better as the year went on," said Myers.
"I’m really glad I’m feeling the way I am at this time of year, about to go into the playoffs."
Winnipeg beat the Nashville Predators 5-4 in a shootout Sunday to clinch their first playoff berth since 2015. Indeed, there’s joy in Jetsville right now.
But, as Myers knows well, people struggle daily with far greater tragedies than not playing hockey beyond the regular 82-game season.
Last month, the infant daughter of Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal and his wife, Heather, died of a terminal birth defect, while Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda, are grieving the loss of their son, Axel, who was stillborn earlier this month.
Myers said his thoughts are with the two members of a tight NHL fraternity.
"Stories like that brought us back to a tough time in our family’s life last year," he said.
"The Jets family did a really good job and we reached out to those families and wished them all the best. (Hopefully) things will start moving forward for them."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).