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Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios is a finalist for this year's Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. ((Carlos Osorio/Associated Press))

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake, Edmonton Oilers winger Fernando Pisani and Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios are the finalists for Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes dedication, perseverance and sportsmanship, the NHL announced Friday.

The trophy is presented annually to a player chosen by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

The award was first handed out in 1968 to commemorate the late player, who played for the Minnesota North Stars. Masterton died Jan. 15, 1968.

None of this year's finalists have ever won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel won the award last year.

Last October, Blake was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a rare but treatable form of cancer.

It didn't slow him down, though, as he was one of only three Toronto players to appear in all 82 regular-season games.

Blake, a native of Hibbing, Minn., also hosted a leukemia awareness night at the Air Canada Centre in January, and donated $1,000 per goal and $500 per assist during the month to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

Pisani sat out the first 26 games of the regular season due to ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammation of the large intestine, before making an inspirational return to the Oilers' lineup on Dec. 2 in a 4-0 victory at Anaheim. He played in all of Edmonton's remaining games.

Chelios completed his 24th NHL regular season and ninth with the Red Wings in 2007-08.

The three-time Norris Trophy winner (1989, 1993 and 1996) as the NHL's best defenceman has appeared in 1,616 regular-season games, sixth on the all-time list.

In January, the 46-year-old Chicago native became the second oldest player to ever have played in the National Hockey League history, trailing only Gordie Howe.

The Masterton Trophy winner will be announced June 12 during the 2008 NHL awards in Toronto