by Joe Tasca on 12/19/12 at 10:00 PM ET
This week, Adam Kaufman wrote a fabulous piece on Worcester Sharks defenseman Nick Petrecki, who was named the AHL's Man of the Year in 2012 for his outstanding community involvement and charitable contributions.
Petrecki's resume is impressive. He mentors children at several Boys and Girls Clubs in central Massachusetts. He speaks to thousands of students at school assemblies about the importance of reading. He helps organize the Sharks' annual toy drive, in which Worcester players donate thousands of dollars to purchase gifts for needy children over the holidays.
For Petrecki, being active in the community is something he truly enjoys:
“It’s not just going to a school, reading off a note card and getting out of there,” he continued. “It’s about really taking it and trying to evolve it and enjoy it while stressing the message, ‘This is what I believe in and I think this could help you guys.’ Obviously (the Man of the Year award) was a good honor but I’m just glad that we saw the positive impact in some of the things we did last year."
One event that will always stay with Petrecki is the holiday toy drive.
“You walk into the room after and see these people,” he remembered. “They don’t have two dimes to rub together and you’re giving them 50 dollars worth of stuff that if you went out at Target, we really wouldn’t sniff at, but it means a lot to them. Seeing that reaction, seeing happy parents and happy kids, a class that really enjoyed what you just talked about, or taking time with somebody at a hospital — it’s all little stuff like that that’s a positive effect not only on them but on you as well.”
Petrecki also talked about how difficult it can be can recruit other players to volunteer their time for charitable causes:
“It’s a little disappointing if it’s only one or two guys doing everything, but we try to get as many as we can,” Petrecki said. “We can’t force it on anybody. Some guys just don’t like to get up in front of a group and talk about sports.
“Obviously the more people we can get out, whether it’s for a reading program, a fitness program, a toy drive, the Hockey Ministries night that we do, whatever, it’s better because people get a big kick out of it and it makes a bigger impression than you realize. We’re in a tough market here in Worcester and it really helps generate more interest in hockey and in hockey in Worcester.”
Not everyone's a social butterfly, but it would still be nice if more professional athletes took part in community events. At the very least, I think all hockey players should make a point to visit a local children's hospital at some point during the season. Interacting with a pro athlete is such an incredible thrill for any child, never mind those who are battling life-threatening illnesses and debilitating injuries.
When P.K. Subban traveled to Haiti last year, he visited Grace Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince, which was damaged beyond repair in the 2010 earthquake. He saw young kids being treated for HIV, tuberculosis, and other respiratory illnesses in deplorable conditions up close and personal. Not surprisingly, Subban said it was a life-changing experience, one that provided him with some much-needed perspective on life.
Nick Petrecki understands the need for perspective. We all need to experience moments that give us pause. Those kind of moments allow a person to reflect on his own behavior and to appreciate the good things in his life. It's not asking too much for pro hockey players, lucky enough to play a kid's game for a living, to dedicate some time to the less-fortunate youngsters who harbor some of the same hopes and dreams they once had as children.
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About Tasca's Take
Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.
Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.