The NHL on TSN's No Guts, No Glory title salutes NHL players who have demonstrated uncommon courage by putting themselves in harm's way for the greater good of their teams.
And for the 2009-10 season, Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom and St. Louis Blues forward Keith Tkachuk are the co-winners of TSN's annual honour. Both players are recognized for singular displays of true grit and courage for the good of their teams.
Backstrom finished fourth in the scoring race this season, but it was his willingness to put himself in harm's way not once, not twice but three times on March 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 22-year-old blocked three consecutive slapshots by hard-shooting Lightning defenceman Kurtis Foster in a 24-second span to help the Capitals kill off a four-on-three penalty and protect a one-goal lead. Foster's slapshot has been timed at more than 100 miles-per-hour.
"It's uplifting to teammates when a guy pays the price like that," said teammate Brooks Laich. "Especially when it's one of your stars."
Tkachuk, who retired at the end of the regular season, made a career out of setting up in front of the opposition net, voluntarily putting himself in harm's way and paying a painful price to score many of his 538 goals. It seemed appropriate he would be credited with a milestone goal – No. 534, to pass Frank Mahovlich for 30th on the all-time list - on just such a play.
The 38-year-old centre had staked out a position in the slot against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 2 when a shot by teammate T.J. Oshie deflected off of his mouth and into the Blackhawks' net. The puck shattered Tkachuk's upper jaw and knocked out five teeth. He has since had seven root canals and requires many more months of surgery, including a procedure in which doctors will take a bone from his hip to graft onto his jaw. Despite the massive facial damage, Tkachuk missed only three games before returning to play.
Other finalists for this year's honour are Flyers forward Ian Laperriere (who lost seven teeth, broke a bone above his lip, and had close to 100 stitches administered after blocking a slap shot and returning to play the third period against Buffalo on Nov. 26) and Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty (who was hit in the face off an Erik Johnson slap shot in the second period of their game against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 10 and returned to score a power play goal and an assist).
Winners of the NHL on TSN No Guts, No Glory honour:
2007-08: Martin Straka, New York Rangers
2008-09: Stephane Robidas, Dallas Stars
2009 Playoffs: Matt Walker, Chicago Blackhawks