Imagine two fathers sitting in the stands of a college hockey arena one fall evening watching their sons practice with their squirt hockey team. Picture, too, in this setting, helping out on the ice on a regular basis, a Division I college player from the home team, a young man who, in addition to his studies and his varsity practice commitments, has recently recovered from a life-threatening accident that had left him speechless and in a coma, with little hope of ever walking or talking again. To complete this scene, on an empty seat next to the two dads is the morning paper with a headline chronicling a professional football player’s latest serious scrape with the law and his subsequent release from jail. If you were concerned about the role models your sports-loving child was encountering, and you were sitting there that night, what would you have done?
For John Greenhalgh and Jeff Millman, the two sitting in Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena that October evening in 1995, the answer was simple and obvious - they thought it was time to create an award that honored those athletes who were worthy of kids’ attention and admiration. Having spent the early part of that season watching their volunteer coach’s courageous return to college hockey from his brush with death while still finding a way to spend some of his time with their kids, and enamored of athletics but weary of seeing often distasteful personal behavior and contract hassles dominate the sports pages, they decided it was long overdue that some ongoing recognition of this kind of individual needed to be established. Thus was born the annual Hockey Humanitarian Award, and in February of l996 the inaugural recipient was J.P. McKersie of the BU Terriers, that on-ice volunteer who, in their minds, represented all that can be right about sports.
Within weeks of their decision to create such an honor, they had recruited from the world of athletics, business, education and the media a board of directors who shared their concerns and who were willing to help sustain their efforts until the award achieved its own critical mass. Four years later, with the help of the board, the college hockey community, and others in the media, the award and all that it stands for has more thanreached a national audience, its message has, to no surprise, resonated throughout college hockey and beyond and has already been described as "one of college hockey’s two most important awards."
Each year their Foundation board solicits nominations from every college varsity hockey program in the country - male and female in Divisions I-III. With the responses they receive they are treated to reading the biographies of the latest group of distinguished nominees, men and women who complete with both intensity and civility, respecting the rules of the game on and off the ice, young adults who understand that giving back to one’s community is not so much an obligation as it is a privilege and an opportunity to enrich both their own lives and those to whom they reach out. They read not just of Rhodes Scholar candidates, team captains, campus leaders and volunteers helping our youth, the handicapped, the homeless, and the disadvantaged. They also have reaffirmed each year that there are, throughout this and other college sports, young people whose upbringing, whose coaches, and whose athletic programs deserve notice for reasons that ultimately are far more important than mere personal statistics or won-lost records might indicate.
Indeed, the candidates this annual award honors are not just a group of terrific athletes, they represent future leaders in education, business, and our communities, people who may well become our children’s teachers, employers, and neighbors. It has always been the belief of the Foundation that there needs to be room in our lives for both games and responsibility and that the men and women recognized by the Humanitarian Award are really the kind of individuals our kids should be looking up to. In the end, they claim, it is not about how many times you touch the puck, but often you touch a life.
|2013||Tucker Mullin||St. Anselm|
|2012||Aleca Hughes||Yale University|
|2011||Brooks Dyroff||Boston College|
|2010||Ethan Cox||Colgate University|
|2009||Missy Elumba||Northeastern University|
|2008||William Bruce||Williams College|
|2007||Kristin Savard||Yale University|
|2006||Eric Leroux||Princeton University|
|2005||Sarah Carlson||Boston College|
|2004||Chanda Gunn||Northeastern University|
|2003||Sam Paolini||Cornell University|
|2002||Rocky Ray Reeves||Buffalo State College|
|2001||Jason Cupp||University of Nebraska - Omaha|
|2000||James Leger||University of Maine|
|1999||Kristine Pierce||Rochester Institute of Technology|
|1998||Erik Raygor||University of Wisconsin|
|1997||Blake Sloan||University of Michigan|
|1996||J.P. McKersie||Boston University|