Wild defenseman, hockey player and professional athlete all describe Matt Dumba.

But what Dumba's striving to achieve with those titles goes beyond individual milestones, team success and even championship glory.

"I have a platform to make a change and make a difference," he said. "It'd be a shame if I let that go to waste."

Dumba has been at the forefront of hockey's crusade against racial inequality in the aftermath of George Floyd's death last year, speaking out against injustice and organizing resources to spark a transformation within the game.

“You go through any of my comments . . . there's a lot of hate that's involved with them. Persevering through that, I'm thinking about all the kids that I am helping, hopefully, and all the support and love I have from my family and knowing that what I'm doing is the right thing.”
Matt Dumba

Because of those efforts, Dumba has been nominated by the Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

"My 26-year-old self is able to stand up for those kids and my past self who maybe didn't have the courage or didn't know how to go about it," Dumba said. "I think I've figured that out now."

Over the past year, Dumba has been in the spotlight for more than his play.

He is one of the founders of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which was established to eradicate racism and intolerance in the game. When the NHL returned after being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dumba delivered a powerful anti-racism speech on national television ahead of the playoffs. He then became the first NHLer to kneel for the U.S. national anthem.

Despite the backlash he received, Dumba kept advocating.

"You go through any of my comments, or you scroll through my direct messages, there's a lot of hate that's involved with them," he said. "Persevering through that, I'm thinking about all the kids that I am helping, hopefully, and all the support and love I have from my family and knowing that what I'm doing is the right thing.

"I truly believe that. So, that kind of pushes that out and helps me persevere through all the negative energy that gets thrown my way as well."

The grassroots level is where Dumba feels the most progress can happen, and his sportsmanship has been highlighted by his work to promote diversity in hockey among the youth.

In February, he launched a camp in Roseville to make the sport more accessible to young players. And seeing how the community rallied around an event like that, along with the support the Hockey Diversity Alliance has received, inspires Dumba.

"That's what gives me hope for this next generation of kids," said Dumba, who is Filipino-Canadian and the NHL's reigning King Clancy Trophy winner for his leadership qualities and contributions to the community. "I think anyone that you talk to and who's been there on the ground supporting these kids and hearing their stories, I think that they would say the same. The smiles, the hope, just the energy that we're cultivating here is starting to change here in Minnesota, but I hope it's across North America and eventually the world."

Each NHL team has a nominee for the Masterton, with the finalists and winners announced this summer. Among the nominees are Anaheim winger David Backes, a Spring Lake Park native; Arizona winger Phil Kessel, a former Gophers standout; and Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom, who battled cancer before returning to the ice this season.

On the ice, Dumba remains a key player for the Wild, especially with the team gearing up for the playoffs. Through 49 games, he has six goals and 15 assists while looking more like the offensive-minded defenseman he was before rebounding from a torn pectoral injury that sidelined him in 2018.

His dedication to the game, however, exceeds his own accomplishments, and that opportunity to change hockey has enriched his entire journey within the sport.

"This past year or two, it's been really special for me," Dumba said, "even just getting to know myself better and feeling comfortable in my own shoes and being able to preach that to kids who look like me and kids who want to get involved in the game and make this game more inclusive."