Blake's perseverance Masterton-worthy

LANCE HORNBY

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

Leukemia rocked Jason Blake's world in October, but he was good on his word that it wouldn't knock him out of the Maple Leafs lineup.

Five months later, as one of four Leafs who haven't missed a game, he is Toronto's nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies 'the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

It is named in honour of the Minnesota North Stars player who died, at age 29, two days after his head struck the ice in a 1968 game against the Oakland Seals. Blake was chosen in a vote by the Toronto chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Blake has chronic myelogenous leukemia, a rare, but treatable form of the disease and must take a daily pill called Gleevec for his condition. Though his 13 goals will fall far short of his career-best 40 last year with the New York Islanders, he has 30 assists and is fourth in NHL shots with 287. He continues to take the requisite punishment of a 5-foot-10, 180-pound player in a big man's league.

"He's the same player he was for us on Day 1," praised Leafs' coach Paul Maurice. "When you first hear the word leukemia, you don't think of him (coming back). For the first two weeks, until his medication kicked in, he was tired. But after that, he maintained his personality and his sense of humour. It was frustrating, but he has been able to come back."

Among the nominees are Regent Park's Glen Metropolit of the Boston Bruins, ex-Leafs Owen Nolan (Calgary), Glen Wesley (Carolina) and Luke Richardson (Ottawa) and 46-year-old Detroit defenceman Chris Chelios.


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