William J. Masterton is the namesake of the NHL's Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy awarded annually to the player who shows the most dedication and commitment to the sport of hockey.
Masterton's career looked promising in the early years. A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, he played Junior Hockey in Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1956-57 before entering Denver University in 1957. In 1961 he helped lead Denver to the NCAA Hockey Championship as a center with 25 goals and 56 assists.
Following college he worked his way into the Montreal Canadiens organization including stints in the Eastern Professional Hockey League and American Hockey League until 1963, when he returned to Denver University for his Masters degree in Finance.
When the NHL expanded from the "Original Six" to twelve teams in 1967, Masterton was one of the first two players to sign on with the fledgling Minnesota North Stars following a tryout, and he began to resurrect his career at the age of 29.
On January 13th, 1968 in a regular-season game against the Oakland Seals, Masterton suffered a head injury as the result of a fall after being hit. This was still in the era of the helmetless player, and sadly Masterton was carried off the ice unconscious. He never regained consciousness and died two days later on January 15th from severe internal head injuries. He is to-date the only on-ice fatality in NHL history.
At the end of the 1968 season the Professional Hockey Writer's Association instituted the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in his honor and it has been awarded annually since.
Masterton was named to the All-Time NCAA Hockey Team in 1997 alongside legendary names like Ken Dryden, Chris Chelios, and Red Berenson. His number 19 has been "offically" retired by the Minnesota North Stars, and remains "unofficially" retired following the franchise's move to become the Dallas Stars, though sadly no banner currently hangs in what is currently the American Airlines Center acknowledging this.