Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 3/25/12
DETROIT -- Being a professional athlete is not always an easy job. But it has to be even harder when you get hit, pushed, mauled and otherwise abused in the course of your everyday work. Such is the life of the Red Wings' Tomas Holmstrom, who has made a living -- albeit not a bruise-free one -- standing in front of the net, trying to deflect pucks past the goaltender. Holmstrom, who turned 39 in January, has been doing this work since the 1996-97 season. You'd think Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" might have called him to pick up a few pointers on dealing with a challenging line of work. For Holmstrom's efforts, the Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA) has named him their nominee for the NHL's Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication" to hockey. Each team has one nominee and then three finalists are selected. Two Red Wings have won the Masterton Trophy, Brad Park (1983-84) and Steve Yzerman (2002-03). Captain Nick Lidstrom believes Holmstrom, one of his best friends, is a perfect candidate for the award. "He's been part of the team for a long time, his perseverance is second to none," Lidstrom said. "We know what he's been going through with his bad knees. His knees weren't the best when he got here 15 years ago. "The way he's battling through injuries and able to come back and play, we know the beating he's been taking in front of the net and in the offensive zone, but he keeps getting up there and getting back in there, so he's got so much determination and will to get back in there again." Holmstrom's knees are so bad that he gets Synvisc injections in them a couple of times every year to relieve the pain. But he doesn't complain, just as he doesn't complain about the other injuries he's had because of how he plays the game. "That's the toughest part, when you have to play hurt and go through all that," Holmstrom said. "But when you play a long time, I'm sure all the guys are going to go through that sooner or later. That's how it is. If you can play and you're really banged up, you do it." The Swede who was taken in the 10th round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, 257th overall, found his niche early in his career. He's worked tirelessly at it, which is the reason he's lasted so long. "I know I don't have the best skills but for sure I've been working on it a lot, try to get better skating, better shot, pretty much get better all-around game to stay in the league and try to get better around the net," Holmstrom said. "You know there's always someone who wants to take your spot, someone who wants to beat you, just try to get better all the time." Anytime people talk about having a net-front presence, Holmstrom is one of the first names mentioned. "It's fun to see guys popping up, see guys going to the net and staying around the net and in front of the goalie and start doing that and kids coming up and say, 'I play like you Homer, I play in front of the net. I scored two goals the other night, I tipped them in.,'" Holmstrom said. "We all can't be like Pavel (Datsyuk) and Hank (Henrik Zetterberg), we got to have some guys doing the grind job around the net." Although Holmstrom knows he is close to the end of his NHL career, he has not yet decided whether this will be his last season. "I want to make the decision after the season, see how the body feels," Holmstrom said. "For sure it's been a tough year, playing most of the time on the fourth line and limited ice time. I just try to do the best of it. It's tough when you don't get the ice time, you get the momentum going. We got a good team, the end goal is not to get me ice time, the end goal is to win the Stanley Cup." Holmstrom became the sixth Red Wing to pass 1,000 games played this season. His teammates rewarded him with a shiny new snowmobile for his milestone. "I remember my first year walking into the rink, you just try to break (into) the lineup," Holmstrom said. "I signed a two-year deal and got sent down to Adirondack and it was like I'm going to play out my two years and see what happens. "Now it's 15 years and 1,000 games later and four Stanley Cups, it's been fun."
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