Blue-collar workers in the NHL aren't often recognized for individual awards.
Especially when they are defensive specialists like Stephane Yelle.
But Yelle, announced yesterday as this year's Calgary Flames candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy -- as selected by local members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association -- is never taken for granted by his teammates.
The Masterton is given to the player who 'best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.'
Darren McCarty says that suits Yelle perfectly.
"He's the guy, if you're in a war, he's going to throw himself on the grenade and not think twice about it. He does it every night," said McCarty after hearing of the nomination.
"He exemplifies a lot of just the lunchpail, nine-to-five, punch-in, punch-out type guys in this league. He's a guy who's going to get overlooked a lot for individual awards like the Selke and stuff. We know how valuable he is in here."
Defenceman Robyn Regehr seconds the motion.
"The guys in this room probably appreciate what he does the most out there," said Regehr.
"He does get a little bit of recognition outside this room but a player in his position, that's just the way it is. They usually fly under the radar. He's an extremely important guy for us."
Local fans also appreciate Yelle's role as a faceoff man, penalty killer and, most noticeably, a shot blocker.
When Yelle returned from an eight-game absence in January after fracturing a bone in his foot while blocking a shot a few weeks earlier, Flames fans gave the dedicated centre a resounding ovation.
That affection wasn't lost on Yelle.
"Fans in Calgary are the best in hockey," said Yelle. "They know their game. They know hockey and they appreciate everyone's roles."
As for the nomination, Yelle is honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as Lanny McDonald (1983) and Gary Roberts (1996), who both won the trophy as Flames.
"It's a surprise but it's nice to be mentioned here in Calgary with guys like Lanny and Gary Roberts. It's pretty special," said Yelle.