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Honor That Fits His Profile

Ducks' Rucchin, who has endured injuries and tragedy, is a finalist for Masterton award.

June 05, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Steve Rucchin, who overcame physical and emotional wounds during the last two seasons to help lead the Mighty Ducks to their first Stanley Cup finals, was announced as a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial trophy on Wednesday.

Boston Bruin defenseman Bryan Berard and Detroit Red Wing center Steve Yzerman also were named finalists in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Assn. The winner of the award -- given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey -- will be announced during the NHL awards ceremony June 12 at Toronto.

Berard and Yzerman each overcame career-threatening injuries to lead their teams to the playoffs this season. Berard had an eye injury and Yzerman a knee injury. Both had been told by doctors to end their careers.

Rucchin played only 16 games in 2000-01 after Colorado's Ray Bourque cross-checked him into the path of teammate Teemu Selanne's slap shot. The puck struck him in the face, breaking bones in his nose and cheek and causing a concussion.

Last season, Rucchin sat out all but 38 games after suffering a stress fracture in his left leg. Last summer, his older brother, Larry, died of cancer after a two-year battle.

Rucchin called his nomination "an honor."

"Really, the physical part was the easy part compared to watching my brother get ill and pass away," he said. "I'm sure there are tons of other guys more deserving than me. I'm fortunate to be selected, but I'm definitely not fortunate to have had the things that have happened to me."

If the Ducks were voting, Rucchin would be the hands-down winner. He played all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career, scoring 20 goals and 58 points this season. He also has four goals and seven points in 18 playoff games.

"Three years ago, we were a team battling for the playoffs," winger Mike Leclerc said. "The next year, Steve gets hurt and we're in the cellar for the next two years. He's kind of a private guy. He doesn't like to air his family problems, but I'm sure it was good for him to come to the rink. [But] I'm sure it was tough while he was hurt and the team was losing. He had nothing to turn to."

Said defenseman Keith Carney: "He means everything to our team. The reason we have had success this year is because Steve Rucchin was healthy."

Added captain Paul Kariya: "He's come back and played incredible for us. He's been a huge factor. Rooch has been with the franchise nine years and it's great to see him getting the recognition he's getting."

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