PITTSBURGH — In the isolated world of college hockey, Tucker Mullin enjoyed an impressive career. In his first year at St. Anselm, he scored 18 goals, second-best on the team. Although a torn ACL in his sophomore season and eight shoulder separations over the years slowed him down a bit, the two-time team captain still finished with 49 career goals and 104 points.
Ultimately, however, Mullin’s college days will be judged by his accomplishments off the ice in that more significant arena of making the world a better place.
2013 NCAA Frozen Four
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Mullin earned his nomination for the award, annually bestowed by the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation, as a result of his extensive charitable activity. He co-founded the Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation, which seeks to provide emotional and financial support to those affected by and living with paralysis.
He also served as a student ambassador for Team IMPACT, a New England-based non-profit that works with children facing life-threatening diseases. The group strives to harness the power of teamwork by matching up these children with collegiate athletic teams.
“I grew up reading Sports Illustrated, always looking for the story that wasn’t headline news but was about athletes who did something with the status they had,” Mullin says. “They brought attention to issues away from the ice or athletic field.
“Obviously, I don’t have the same status of a professional athlete, but if I can use whatever status I do have and use hockey as a vehicle to drive [that engine], that’s a role I embrace.”
The Paralysis Foundation arose out of Thomas Smith’s two paralyzing hockey injuries, the latter of which relegated him to a wheelchair for two years. Originally expected to join Mullin first on a junior team and then a year later at St. Anselm, Smith instead had to battle and overcome all the odds simply to step out of his wheelchair. He now walks with the assistance of a cane.
“His story is driving our foundation,” Mullin says. “We find people who embrace the same attitudes that Tom has: attitude, hard work and unrelenting spirit.”
The foundation, which has raised over $51,000, has assisted nine such people already, including former Merrimack hockey player Chic Kelly, who received a $10,000 grant to assist in his nursing care.
Through the foundation (JustCureParalysis.org), Mullin and Smith are preparing to launch a Massachusetts automobile vanity plate that will not only add an additional revenue stream directed at research through Invivo Therapeutics, but will also raise awareness for an injury that affects 12,000 people each year.
“We’re in the beginning stages of this,” Mullin says. “It’s a very complex process, but it’s worth doing.
“We’re a small piece in a big puzzle. But this will be a huge marketing tool and eventually the funds will support the research arm of the foundation.”
Mullin’s activities with Team IMPACT provided another opportunity to make a difference. Mullin and his teammates “adopted” 9-year-old Benjamin Roy, who himself has defied all odds since the age of 4, having been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia pre-B cell in 2007.
“He’s been with us since April 2011 and is a part of the team all the time,” Mullin says. “He comes to the practices, he comes to games and even has his own reserved seat. He comes to team dinners. Even in spring time when were not in-season, he’ll be on the Quad, playing squirt guns with us.”
Combining these endeavors with academics and athletics hasn’t been easy.
“There are tradeoffs for everything,” Mullin says. “I’ve made sacrifices in other areas so I could do what I needed to do with the foundation but it’s not a sacrifice. To balance all of that with college is pretty tough, so I’m one of the busier guys out there.
“But I’m the beneficiary of all of this. If you’re able to have an impact on somebody, if you’re able to make a relationship with someone like Chic Kelly, that type of thing is invaluable.
“You can’t put into words what it means to have these relationships. You can’t measure how amazing these people are. That’s what it’s all about.
“Being here this weekend and getting the recognition for the causes I represent is really what’s important. It’s not about me. Tom and I share the same mentality. We’re working for others.”
A Hall of Fame human being? No doubt about it.