Bill Masterton played only 38 games in the NHL, but his memory has left a lasting impression.
Masterton grew up playing junior hockey in St. Boniface, Manitoba. He went to the University of Denver from 1957 to 1961, where he studied finance and helped the Pioneers win three NCAA titles and earned MVP honors in his senior season.
Signed by the Montreal Canadiens in 1961, Masterton never made it to their NHL club. He retired from the NHL in 1964 and took a job with the Honeywell Corporation in Minneapolis.
But in 1967, the league expanded from six teams to 12, and Masterton's rights were sent to the Minnesota North Stars.
Masterton decided to resume his NHL career, and things started on a high note as he scored the first goal in North Stars franchise history.
On Jan. 13, 1968, the North Stars were playing against the Oakland Seals. Masterton brought the puck into the Seals' zone and passed the puck to a teammate. Masterton then was checked by Oakland's Larry Cahan and Ron Harris. He fell backward, hitting his head on the ice, and was unconscious when he was carried off.
Masterton never awoke from a coma and died Jan. 15, 1968, leaving behind a wife and two young children. He is the first on-ice casualty in NHL history.
In the years since Masterton's death, some have said that he already was suffering from a brain injury before the game against the Seals.
Minnesota goalie Cesare Maniago told the Toronto Star in 2011 that Masterton told him the day before that he was suffering from the effects of a head check into the glass during a recent game.
“He had been complaining of headaches,” Maniago said, according to the report. “He’d got hit and even that night he said ‘Gee, I’ve really been getting these migraines and they’ve been with me for about a week.’”
Other witnesses said they noticed something was wrong with Masterton starting in training camp.
Masterton's No. 19 jersey was retired by the North Stars in 1987. Before the start of the 1979–80 season, it became mandatory for all players entering the league to wear a helmet.
To this day, the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.