After Injury, Rozsival Deserving of Masterton Nomination

It wasn’t long ago that it looked like Michal Rozsival’s hockey career might be over. The gruesome injury he suffered in Chicago’s second round victory over Minnesota in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs would have been enough to convince most 36-year-old veterans to hang up the skates and enjoy retirement — especially after winning a cup with Chicago in 2013.

But that idea did not seem to cross the mind of Rozsival. Instead, he completed what must have been an intense rehab program and managed to ready himself in time to receive a professional tryout offer (PTO) from the Blackhawks over the summer. Even not having a guaranteed roster spot could not deter Rozsival evidently. And after proving his dedication to the team, he signed a low-money deal to return for the 2015-16 season, a season which would eventually see him chosen as the Blackhawks’ nominee for the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance and dedication to the game of hockey.

Earning his Nomination

His $600,000 contract highlighted a few points relevant to Rozsival’s situation. One, it shows how dedicated he really was to returning and helping the team again in 2015-16. It would be one thing if the veteran was motivated to undergo rehab and recovery for the chance of receiving a more significant amount of financial compensation, but instead, he went through the entire process just to add $600,000 to his career earnings of over $30 million. I personally don’t know if I would have done the same if I was in the same financial situation as Rozsival, so my respect for him only goes up.

The other interesting aspect of that deal is the Blackhawks’ side of that contract. With Stan Bowman in a seemingly eternal cap crisis, the Blackhawks had to save cap space in every way possible leading up to the season. But Bowman was still confident enough in Rozsival’s ability to return to give him a contract before the start of the regular season. That speaks volumes as to how highly the Blackhawks organization regarded their veteran rearguard.

Continuing to Battle

If you watch the slow-motion replay of Rozsival’s injury (I wouldn’t advise it if sports injuries make you queasy), you can see the determination on his face as he tries to turn and knock the puck away from a streaking Tomas Vanek. Rather than simply crumpling to the ice and lying limp after breaking his ankle, he kept his focus on the game and fully committed himself to making a play against Vanek. That kind of effort and grit is what I will remember more than anything else when looking back on Rozsival’s career in Chicago.

Even though he takes some heat from fans for lacking the same mobility he possessed earlier in his career, he still performs far better than your typical 37-year-old defenseman playing in Joel Quenneville’s system. And if he records one more point before the end of the season, he will also have equaled his total from 2014-15. Pretty impressive stuff from a player who is more than deserving of the Masterton nomination he received earlier this week.