Benoit earns Masterton nomination

After eight long years of travelling the world playing professional hockey, Andre Benoit has finally found a home in the National Hockey League.

In his own backyard, no less.

Ottawa Senators defenceman Andre Benoit is the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. (Photo: Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen)

After eight long years of travelling the world playing professional hockey, Andre Benoit has finally found a home in the National Hockey League.

In his own backyard, no less.

Due to his determination to hold on to his NHL dream, the 29-year-old Ottawa Senators defenceman is the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, as selected by the Ottawa chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association.

“It’s a nice feather in my cap, I guess,” said Benoit, a native of St. Albert, east of Ottawa. “The road has been a little long to get here, but now that I’m here and the year has been going well, it’s a nice honour to have.”

Benoit, undrafted into the NHL despite being winning the Memorial Cup with the Kitchener Rangers in 2003, has made his way into the big leagues the old fashioned way. He has earned it.

He has won a Calder Cup title with both Hamilton and Binghamton of the American Hockey League. He has also played in Sweden and Finland, but before this season, his only NHL experience came from the eight games he played with the Senators as an injury call-up during the 2010-11 season.

After spending the 2011-12 season with Moscow Spartak in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, Benoit signed a two-way contract with the Senators last summer — $300,000 if he played in Binghamton, $650,000 if he was with the Senators – recognizing that it was possible he would spent the entire year in the AHL as a veteran role model for young prospects. He always made it clear to the organization, however, that he wanted a chance in the big leagues if he deserved it.

When injuries to Jared Cowen and Mike Lundin opened the door for a training camp invite in January, Benoit made the most of it. He has scored three goals and seven assists in 33 games this season.

“I always thought I could play in the league, but I didn’t know if I was going to get a chance to play. You start asking questions after awhile. At some point, if I had ended up in Europe (permanently), I would have been happy, anyway, but to be able to come back here and stay a full year in the NHL, it’s a dream come true.”

New Jersey Devils left winger David Clarkson, Benoit’s teammate on Kitchener’s Memorial Cup team, says he always believed Benoit would be an every day NHL player, but is surprised it took so long to happen. Benoit acknowledges that he, too, looked around, trying to figure it out.

Maybe, he says, having to wait so long for the NHL dream to arrive makes him appreciate it that much more.

“It’s about working hard and enjoying where you are at the moment, but at the same time, never giving up,” he said.

Patrick Wiercioch, the Senators 22-year-old defenceman, says Benoit has provided great guidance for him, both with Binghamton and in Ottawa, helping him with everything from small plays on the ice to understanding how to prepare properly for games.

“He’s able to talk to guys about his experiences,” said Wiercioch. “He has helped guys make their own decisions based on what he has done. I stuck pretty close to him in Binghamton. I learned a lot from him.”

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment