William "Bill" Masterton - Born August 13, 1938 in Winnipeg, Manitoba – Died January 15, 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota was a Canadian ice Hockey centre.
- Turnbull Cup Champion 1956 with St. Boniface Canadiens.
Turnbull Cup finalist 1957.
In the fall of 1957, Masterton enrolled at the University of Denver, where he played Hockey while getting an education. In four years with the school team he was one of the club's top offensive players, averaging more than two points per game in each of his last three seasons. Masterton helped Denver win an impressive three NCAA National Championships, in 1958, 1960 and again in his senior year in 1961.
- NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Champion 1958, 1960 and 1961 with Denver Pioneers.
Masterton was voted as the NCAA Championship Tournament Most Valuable Player / MVP in 1961.
Masterton was voted to the All-NCAA All-Tournament First Team 1961.
Masterton then turned pro with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens for the 1961-62 Eastern Professional Hockey League / EPHL. He helped them win the league championship. He then joined the Cleveland Barons in the American Hockey League / AHL for the 1962-63 season, scoring 27 goals, 55 assists in 72 regular season games.
Masterton, realizing his chances at playing in the NHL were slim, as they only had 6 teams at the time, decided to retire from professional play, and join the Minneapolis based technology company Honeywell. He got his amateur status back while playing for the St. Paul Steers of the United States Hockey League / USHL and practiced with the U.S. National team.
In 1967, Masterton’s hope of playing in the NHL re-emerged with the NHL expansion from six to 12 teams. The Montreal Canadiens, which owned his rights, traded them to Minnesota.
Masterton made his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars on October 11, 1967 vs St. Louis Blues at St. Louis Arena in a 2-2 tie. This was the 1st NHL game for both teams, as the NHL doubled in size from six to 12 teams, marking the largest expansion ever undertaken at one time by a professional sports league.
Masterton scored the 1st goal of the game, which was also the 1st goal in Minnesota NHL history, 1st NHL goal scored against St. Louis Blues and the 1st goal of his NHL career. This goal was scored on Seth Martin at 15:20 of the 2nd period.
Masterton would play in 38 NHL games for Minnesota, scoring 4 goals, 8 assists and just 2 penalties.
On January 13, 1968, in a game vs the Oakland Seals at the Met Center and during the 1st period, Masterton carried the puck across the blue line and cut to the right while Seals defensemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris closed in. One of their sticks tangled with Masterton's skates as he slid a pass to his wing, and he lost his balance, pitching forward. He didn't see Harris who caught him with a clean check that knocked him backward. Masterton, who was not wearing a helmet, smacked the back of his head on the ice. "It sounded like a baseball bat hitting a ball," teammate André Boudrias recalled.
Masterton was carried off the ice unconscious, and never awoke from his coma. Two days later, on January 15, Bill Masterton died, the first on-ice casualty in NHL history.
The Minnesota North Stars pulled his jersey number 19 out of circulation following his death and formally retired it in 1987. That honour followed the franchise when it relocated south to become the Dallas Stars.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy was created in 1968 under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is presented annually to the "National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to Hockey"
William Masterton was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.
A Toronto Star investigation has uncovered evidence that an earlier, untreated concussion was likely responsible for Masterton’s death at the age of 29. Those closest to Masterton concur he was suffering from a brain injury before he stepped on to the ice that night, as does a medical expert who reviewed an autopsy report obtained by the Star.
Dr. Charles Tator, a Toronto neurosurgeon and concussion expert, believes Masterton suffered “second impact syndrome,” a rare occurrence where a second concussion happens on the heels of a first concussion that never healed, causing rapid and severe brain swelling.