Utah goalkeeper has one of the NHL’s best stories and the award to prove it

After his own struggles, goalkeeper Connor Ingram will “emphasize the importance of seeking support during life’s darkest moments.”

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram (39) reaches out to make a save on a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Nick Perbix (48) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Utah’s newest professional sports team has one of professional sports’ best stories.

On Wednesday, Utah hockey team starting goalkeeper Connor Ingram was given the 2023-24 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the NHL’s annual award that chooses one player from the league whose story “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”

Ingram has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder and become an advocate for mental health.

“Connor’s journey through adversity and his unwavering commitment to the game of hockey truly embodies the essence of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy,” Bill Armstrong, Utah’s general manager, said in a statement. “Since his return, Connor has not only excelled on the ice, but has emerged as an inspiration to hockey players across the globe as he continues to tell his story and emphasize the importance of seeking support during life’s darkest moments. We are immensely proud of Connor and honored to have him represent our team as this year’s winner.”

Three years ago, Ingram was on his way up hockey’s minor leagues, looking to become a goaltender at the highest level. He was on the Nashville Predators “taxi squad” during the pandemic, essentially a reserve in case players were missing due to COVID-19.

But Ingram wasn’t in a good place: He was dealing with undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder. He said he fought related alcoholism and depression, the need to complete every task, and the crippling fear of catching disease. His career — and his life — were on the ropes.

One January day, he walked into the team’s practice rink and told them he needed help. That day, he was put on a flight to California.

There, he committed to spending 40 days at an inpatient treatment center for his OCD.

“I did a lot of work in there with different exposure therapies,” Ingram explained.

“You’re doing things that you don’t want to. You’ve got to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, is kind of how to deal with OCD,” he continued. “So there was a lot of work and a lot of days that I didn’t enjoy, but it obviously helped me through it.”

Nine months from the day he stepped into the inpatient facility, he started his first game with the Nashville Predators.

Ingram spent the rest of that season with the Predators before moving to the Arizona Coyotes beginning in the 2022-23 season. Expected to be a backup or even further down the depth chart, Ingram instead worked his way up with impressive performances, especially as the calendar turned to 2024. He finished the season with a .907 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average, tying a league-best six shutout mark.

Ingram will receive the award on stage in six weeks on June 27, when the 2024 NHL Awards will be televised on ESPN.