Good guys do finish first.
Fernando Pisani isn’t only a pretty good hockey player, the soft-spoken hometown boy made good with the Edmonton Oilers is one of the finest people I’ve met in 25 years rattling around hockey rinks.
It was more than satisfying, then, to get on the telephone late last week and let Pisani know his courageous comeback from a career-threatening bout of ulcerative colitis has made him a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Pisani, 31, Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Jason Blake are the three finalists for the award, presented to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Pisani has shown plenty of all three.
“It’s an honour,” said Pisani, who is vacationing in Arizona. “It’s one of those things where you’re happy people recognize things you’ve gone through as an individual. There was a time when it was very scary not knowing what would happen.”
Most Oilers fans know Pisani’s story, but his being named a finalist makes it obvious his comeback has resonated around the NHL. The Masterton is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association in all 30 cities.
Pisani had been battling the condition — it’s a chronic inflammation of the large intestine — since being diagnosed with it in 2005 when it worsened in the summer of 2007.
In a span of mere weeks, he lost almost 40 pounds. Pisani was bed-ridden and later hospitalized. He was facing career-ending surgery before a new course of drug therapy put him on the road to recovery.
The expectation was he’d miss the entire 2007-08 season while recovering, but after sitting out the Oilers first 26 games, Pisani returned to the line-up Dec. 2 in Anaheim.
“You don’t go through something like this thinking you can get an award,” Pisani said. “You just want people to be aware. Something that scares me is this is something that affects kids.”
Pisani told his story in a recent Hockey News blog. He’s active around Edmonton in fundraising and has lent his efforts to a golf tournament to raise money for Crohn’s disease and Colitis.
“I couldn’t imagine anyone’s kid going through that,” he said. “It scares me every day worrying if my kids will ever have to go through that situation. I don’t want anybody to go through something like this.”
The Masterton will be presented at the NHL awards in Toronto on June 12.
IT SAYS HERE
>> Now that it’s official Rob Daum won’t be returning as an assistant coach, it’s only a matter of time until the Oilers announce that Kelly Buchberger will be joining Craig MacTavish’s staff … I’ll bet a buck 23-year-old Fabian Brunnstrom, the over-hyped Swede signed by the Dallas Stars last week, gets outscored by Oiler countryman Robert Nilsson, who is also 23, by at least 20 points next season.
In a decade covering the Edmonton Oilers, Robin Brownlee has been the news-breaker and insightful voice for hockey fans in Oil Country.