At Wednesday night’s NHL Award Show, Jason Zucker was named the winner of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. In my opinion, this is the most important trophy an NHL player could win. This is not my attempt to make too big of a deal out of a “secondary award” to compensate for the fact that a Wild player didn’t win an award like the Hart, Vezina, or Norris. I say this very seriously looking at the bigger picture: the Clancy award is what really matters.
For anyone not aware, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy is awarded every year to the player that best exemplifies leadership qualities both on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community. When awarding the Clancy Trophy, the voters are not looking at goals, points per game, save percentage, or any other statistic like that. They are looking at something that reminds us that, at the end of the day, hockey is just a game, a game we have the great privilege of being able to watch year after year and these athletes have the privilege of playing. The voters are looking at what the players have done to give back to their communities and impact the lives of the people that live there.
And if you are also not aware of what the Zuckers (both Jason and his wife Carly) are doing, they are working to help improve the lives of children who are receiving care at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. They helped build the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio at the hospital, which gives patients and their families a space to watch Wild games. It is meant to replicate the experience of watching a Wild game at the Xcel Energy Center. The effort to build the suite spurred the #GIVE16 campaign started by the Zuckers. The campaign helped raise the funds to build the suite.
Players will score goals, goalies will makes saves, teams will win games, some teams will make the playoffs, and one of them will win the Stanley Cup. The next season the whole process will be repeated. These things aren’t meaningless. Games can bring family and friends together to watch and championship runs can bring the people of a city together. But these things are minor in comparison to the work that the Zuckers are doing to improve the lives of children that are battling serious illnesses. To bring comfort to their lives, to bring the simple comfort of being able to watch a hockey game with their family (something that is not always possible for a child in the middle of medical treatment), is something so much more valuable than anything Zucker or any other player could do on the ice.
We don’t know how much time Jason Zucker has left in a Wild sweater. GM Paul Fenton has already attempted to trade him twice, and it seems likely that he could be moved soon. But regardless of how much longer Zucker is a member of this team, we can say thank you for what he has done for this community off the ice.
Jason, not only have you served the State of Hockey honorably, you have served some of its most deserving members, the patients of the Masonic Children’s Hospital. For this, we should all be extremely grateful.