Professional Hockey Writers' Association Names Willie Mitchell As Nominee For 2014 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
The Masterton Trophy is awarded annually by the PHWA to honor the late Bill Masterton, a player for the Minnesota North Stars who exhibited qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey before he died on January 15, 1968, as the result of an on-ice injury.
The Los Angeles PHWA chapter provided the following on Mitchell:
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell has long exemplified the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey that the Masterton is intended to recognize, most recently with his comeback from a knee injury that forced him to miss all of last season.
While with Vancouver, Mitchell sat out the last 34 games of the 2009-10 season and playoffs because of a concussion, an injury that made many teams reluctant to sign him when he became a free agent in July of 2010. The Kings signed him on Aug. 25, 2010, and he instantly became an integral part of their defense.
Mitchell was a key figure in their 2012 Stanley Cup triumph, bringing a physical presence, strong penalty-killing skills and a calm presence on defense. He also became a leader in the locker room and has regularly made himself available to the media to discuss hockey, fishing—his favorite off-season activity—and the many environmental causes that he favors.
Mitchell, who will be 37 on April 23, suffered a knee injury while preparing for the start of last season. His attempts at rehab didn’t work, because the knee continued to be painful and swollen, and he sought a second opinion. That led him to undergo a second procedure, which forced him to miss the entire season.
The Kings keenly felt his loss and scrambled to replace him. They lost to Chicago in the Western Conference finals, a series they felt they might have won if Mitchell had been healthy.
Mitchell returned this season and has been the steadying force the Kings needed. He was averaging 20:10 through Wednesday’s games, fourth on the team behind Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov and Anze Kopitar.
Off the ice, Mitchell created and sits on the board of the Fishing for Kids tournament in his native British Columbia, an event that has generated more than $5 million for children’s charities in the province. He’s also a board member of the SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, which tries to protect wild Pacific salmon. He is a supporter of the Pacific Salmon foundation http://www.psf.ca and http://www.davidsuzuki.org and his own small local charity raising money for kids aspiring to reach their goals or dreams.
In the past he has helped kids in and around his hometown of Port McNeill obtain hockey equipment and pay registration fees if they aren't able to afford the costs. In 2012, he teamed with the NHLPA and The Messier Project to present 33 M11 helmets to the Port McNeill Minor Hockey Club atoms team.