Masterton earns nod

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

Rem Murray's courageous comeback has not gone unnoticed.

The Edmonton Oilers forward, who returned to the NHL this season after battling a disorder known as cervical dystonia, will be a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy finalist this year.

The award voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given to the NHL player that best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Murray, 33, is the perfect candidate.

"He epitomizes a hockey player," said teammate Ethan Moreau.

"He's here for one reason and that's because he wants to play and he wants to win.

"If you are familiar with his situation, every cent he makes goes back to paying off his (insurance) policy. There is no financial gain, he's just playing because he wants to play, prove that he can still play, and he wants to win."

There was a time when Murray wanted to just live a normal life, much less play professional hockey again.

The disorder tightened Murray's neck muscles making it impossible to keep his head straight.

"One day I tried to pour milk in my cereal and it spilt all over the counter," Murray said.

"I had to rest my head against the cupboard in order to put milk in my cereal - it was frustrating."

Murray played 416 games with the Oilers from 1997 to 2002, scoring 72 goals and adding 90 assists. He was eventually forced to leave the NHL in 2003 when stricken by the disorder. Initially the drugs Murray was put on were ineffective and his career appeared to be over.

"I didn't think there was any chance to play again - zero," he said. "The position I was in, I was just looking to getting on with a normal life. There were some real difficult days."

Botox injections enabled Murray to regain normal motion in his neck. He then set out on the long road back to the NHL.

Murray signed a deal with the Houston Aeros of the AHL, and was eventually picked up by the Oilers in early March. In his second stint with the Oilers, Murray has one assist in eight games.

"It's a credit to him, he was told he wouldn't play," Moreau said. "But he continued to seek out other opinions and work hard at it. He's a true professional. Whether he plays from here on or this is it, he's played a long time and put in a lot of hard work.

"It was sad when it happened, guys felt horrible for him because we knew how much he loved to play the game."

Murray is enjoying every minute of his comeback. And while he's currently living in the moment, he does want to return and play next year.

"Getting back to the NHL is really satisfying for me," he said. "It's been great, I try to savour every moment that I can. The games I do play in, I take in the crowd, the atmosphere of the building, it's been real enjoyable."


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