Awareness about brain injuries and how to treat them has come a long way since then. So has NHL protocol, initiated in 2011, which has spotters to flag potentially concussed players and bans those from returning to games in which they were injured. But that has not happened fast enough for a group of more than 120 ex-NHL players, including Bernie Nicholls, Mike Peluso and Steve Payne, who are suing the league in a class-action suit for putting their neurological health at risk despite knowing the violent play involved. They and many others claim the league could be doing more to protect its players from returning to action too soon.
A native of Winnipeg, Man., Masterton attended the University of Denver where he played for three seasons with the Pioneers in the Western Collegiate Hockey Assoication (WCHA), winning two National Championships in 1960 and 1961. The first player to sign with the new Minnesota club, Masterton made his NHL debut in the team's inaugural game on October 11, 1967 against the St. Louis Blues, scoring the first goal in franchise history. In a game against the Oakland Seals on January 13, 1968, Masterton suffered a severe head injury when his head hit the ice after being checked. The 29-year-old would eventually succumb to his injury as he passed away just two days later on January 15. In his memory, the Professional Hockey Writers' Association created the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 1968, an award presented annually to the "National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Masterton's number 19 has never been worn by another player in franchise history, and was retired by the organization on January 17, 1987.