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HOCKEY: Trick and treat

Kyle Cassily | Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chris Trick anchors the Irish blue line on the ice, but off of it he plays an equally large role supporting the lives of children less fortunate than the rest – and he is earning national recognition for it.

The Notre Dame senior defenseman was named as one of seven finalists Jan. 20 for the 2006 Hockey Humanitarian Award sponsored by the Hockey Humanitarian Foundation. The award will be given out in a ceremony to be held on April 7 at the 2006 NCAA Frozen Four in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The finalists for the award are selected from among every men’s and women’s college hockey team in Division I,II, and III and the winner is announced alongside the Hobey Baker Award for college hockey’s top player.

“It’s always nice to get recognized for your efforts,” Trick said of being nominated a finalist. “It’s good for our team as well because all our projects have to do with team stuff. There’s always different guys doing different stuff. So it’s more of a team award than an individual work.”

Trick was nominated to the Hockey Humanitarian Foundation as a candidate for consideration by Irish head coach Jeff Jackson and his staff. Jackson first took notice of Trick’s extra-curricular activities when Trick entered his office to ask if a practice could be moved earlier in the day so that the team could more fully participate in Notre Dame’s Buddy Walk for the Michiana Downs Syndrome Society.

“I could tell from early on when I made him a captain that he’s a real solid citizen,” Jackson said. “He does a great job in the classroom and very active in community service. He’s a modest player, but he’s got a big heart. He’s got his head on straight. He’s the kind of kid that I would be proud to call my son, he’s got that kind of character to him.”

Trick has been extensively involved in numerous South Bend-area programs, Notre Dame-sponsored activities, and with teams in his hometown of Troy, Michigan. He is a member of the Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a role he took over from former teammate Neil Komadoski – also a former Humanitarian Award finalist.

In his spare time – a treasured commodity for Notre Dame student-athletes – Trick volunteers with the D.A.R.E. program in South Bend elementary schools. Although he’s unsure whether they care more about his athletic endeavors than what he has to say about drugs and alcohol, the smile that comes across the kids’ faces when he interacts with them is equally rewarding.

“I think we had some good stories to share with them. I was pretty honest about my life experiences,” he said. “Sometimes it’s tough with a nine-year-old because you’re not sure what’s going through their head. They haven’t really hit the age where they get into that stuff or get tempted with it. Hopefully it sticks with them – it’ll be nice to think we helped out.”

The defenseman – who has played in 23 games this season, tallying three assists and a solid +4 plus/minus rating – also helps to organize the Buddy Walk, an event held with the hockey, baseball and softball teams. The players spend a day with the Downs Syndrome kids and play games with them before embarking upon the Walk. Trick was also involved in the second annual Kids’ Skate with underprivileged kids from South Bend’s Robinson Center.

“They came out and skated with us one day after practice,” Trick said of the event. “They put our helmets and gloves on and play with our sticks and stuff like that. Most of them never skated before so they pushed the limits a bit, but that was fun.”

The pressure of finals and a tough hockey schedule could not keep Trick from participating every year in the Notre Dame Christmas Party, where athletes and South Bend-area children’s cancer patients interact.

“You never know if it’s going to be a kid’s last Christmas, which is a sad thought,” he said. “You try to put your best effort into making them have a good time and usually it turns out well.”

His community service does not end when he goes home to Michigan either. Trick got involved with the Great Lakes Sled Dogs – a sled hockey team for people with Muscular Dystrophy and Multiple Sclerosis and for paraplegics near his home – through his mother.

“You just try to give them different pointers on how to play the game of hockey and stuff like that,” Trick said of coaching the team. “I have a couple guys on the team I hang out with. We go out to dinner and stuff like that. It’s cool because obviously just the way society looks at people in wheelchairs in a different way, it’s unfortunate.”

If all of these events weren’t enough to occupy a majority of Trick’s time, he even makes space in his day to tutor a member of the Irish Youth Hockey program. The player’s single mom contacted Jackson to see if an Irish player would help out her son in school. Trick immediately volunteered and the two meet several times a week now to read and do schoolwork.

“He’s always asking questions about hockey,” Trick said. “It’s cool that he’s a hockey player it works out well in the end, its something else we share in common.

“I think he realizes to play the sport at Notre Dame you have to take care of school. And he’s kind of learned that out the hard way so far. Hopefully he can catch up and get back on track.”

So as the Irish continue to plod their way up the CCHA standings, don’t forget to look for Trick winning crucial battles for the puck and catching unsuspecting attackers with their heads down, but also take a look behind the boards – where he does some of his best work.