Four players from varied backgrounds have been named finalists for the 2002 Hockey Humanitarian Award, presented anually to the player who exhibits a strong commitment to their communities, their teams, and their studies.
This year’s finalists are Daniel Casella, Dartmouth senior; Thomas Conti, a three-year captain at Division III Lawrence; Rocky Reeves, a four-year captain at Buffalo State and a two-time finalist; and Jeff Wilson, captain at Union.
The announcement of this year’s recipient will be made on Friday, April 5 in St. Paul, Minn. as part of the festivities surrounding NCAA Division I Frozen Four.
Daniel Casella, Dartmouth
A native of Verona, New Jersey, Casella became involved in community service while attending Lawrence Academy. While there, he volunteered at a soup kitchen, a senior citizens home, and shoveled sidewalks in the neighborhood.
His work in the community continued after he matriculated at Dartmouth. Among his activities, Casella has visited the Hanover, N.H.,-area schools where he taught students about the dangers of drugs. He has also coached local youth hockey programs from mites to peewees and has been a key factor in the Big Green’s Holiday Toy Drive.
“Despite the huge time and energy commitments that playing hockey at a Division I school like Dartmouth College entails, Dan Casella somehow manages to take a full course load of classes and gives back to the community almost every day,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. “I have had the pleasure of working with Casella for four seasons at Dartmouth, and I can honestly say that his love for children is greater than anyone else’s that I have ever seen.”
Casella plans has enlisted in the Peace Corps, and will be working to rebuild a community in the Caribbean after graduation. He has a 3.03 grade point average as a government major, and has been a solid role player for the Big Green.
“Dan is regularly the first player on the ice for practice and the last to leave the rink,” said Gaudet. “His combination of work ethic, skill, selflessness, and courage has inspired his teammates and endeared him to our fans.”
Thomas Conti, Lawrence
Born in Summit, New Jersey and now a resident of Atlanta, Conti is a two-sport athlete, is in Phi Beta Kappa, has been nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship, and works with the youth in Appleton, Wis.
One of seven children, Conti began his community involvement in 1996 when he started tutoring Vietnamese children. He continued doing so until 1998. Other activities include helping to construct a Habitat for Humanity home during the spring of 1999, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, and participating in the Adopt-A-School tutoring program.
In soccer, Conti has been a four-year standout and team captain for two seasons. As a sophomore, he was a Second Team All-Midwest Conference selection, while he was a First Team pick his junior and senior seasons.
On the ice, he has been a four-year regular, as well. His freshman year, he had 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points in 15 games, and was named Lawrence University’s Freshman Athlete of the Year.
After his hockey statistics dropped off his sophomore year, he bounced back as a junior with 14 goals and 9 assists for 23 points in 25 games. The team’s MVP last year, he already holds the school records for assists in a season and in a career, goals in a season and in a career and points in a career.
Academically, he has a 3.857 grade point average while majoring in math and computer science. He has received a number of academic scholarships and is a Lawrence Presidential Scholar. Ranked in the top six percent of his class, he has been nominated for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
“He will never say ‘No’ to anyone in need of assistance and literally jumps at the opportunity to be of benefit to someone else,” Lawrence coach David Ruhly said. “I feel proud that Tom is a member of my team because he demonstrates that one can be an incredible athletic leader, a formidable academic presence, and one of the strongest and most influential members of the Lawrence University community.”
Rocky Reeves, Buffalo State
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Reeves is currently serving as team captain for an unprecedented fourth year, and was also a finalist last year.
His involvement in the Buffalo community began because of a broken leg he sustained as a freshman in his first game with the varsity. Rather than leave school and return to his hometown, he chose to stay at Buffalo State. Not only did he earn a 3.41 grade point average that year, but he also quickly got involved with both the campus and the local community.
The activities have included the Concerned Ecumenical Ministry Soup Kitchen; the National Condom Safe Sex Week promotion; “Take Back the Night,” celebrating the survival of sexual abuse; the Carlysclub Cancer Fundraiser; and the Buffalo State Health Fair. He has also organized and implemented the Holiday Rummage Sale for the Homeless and helped distribute books to the Western New York needy organizations through the Project FLIGHT Book Drive.
Academically, he has maintained a 3.30 GPA while majoring in health and wellness. He received his Bachelor’s degree this past December and is currently working on his Masters.
He has been named to the SUNYAC All-Academic Team two years, was on the SUNYAC Commissioner’s List twice, and on the Dean’s List for three years.
Reeves has also been nominated for four other awards: the Buffalo State President’s Medal, the Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence, the Outstanding Senior Award in his major of health and wellness, and the Outstanding Community Service Award also in his major. The announcements of the winners of these awards are still pending.
“Rocky defines what this award exemplifies both on and off the ice,” said Buffalo State coach Jim Fowler. “Rocky does not do all these great things to receive the recognition, but does so because he knows he is making a difference.”
Jeff Wilson, Union College
A native of London, Ontario, Wilson has been one of the offensive standouts for Union the past three years. Among the team’s top three scorers each year, he was his team’s leading scorer last season.
During his athletic career, he has been named the team’s Rookie of the Year, the team’s Most Improved Player, and its Unsung Hero. Statistically, his best season was a year ago when he had 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 34 games.
Respected by his teammates, Wilson, who has a 2.8 GPA in English, was the unanimous choice to serve as team captain this year.
He has also been an integral member of the Schenectady, N.Y. community, having been involved in causes such as the “Dutchmen Skate for Cancer,” with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. He’s also been involved in Big Brothers and Big Sisters Night, the Walk for Juvenile Diabetes, and visits to children’s hospitals.
He also created “A Skating Dutchmen Christmas,” during which the team sponsored a family via social services and purchased gifts for the family. Plus, he established “Pennies for Points,” during which sponsors donated one dollar for every point a Union player earned during a game. The proceeds were then given to underprivileged youth hockey players in Schenectady.
Finally, in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, he created “Dutchmen Skate for 9/11.” The proceeds from that fund-raiser went to the NYPD and NYFD fund, and to two local families that were affected by the attack.
“Once in awhile, if you are a fortunate coach, you come across certain individuals who personify what college athletics is all about; someone who is more concerned with others than himself,” said Union coach Kevin Sneddon. “I have experienced this in our program for the past couple of years with one individual in particular, Jeff Wilson.
“Jeff has not only created and designed several projects, he has literally volunteered for all of our community services projects during the last four years. As well, he has encouraged his fellow teammates to become more involved in volunteer work around the Capital District. His actions appear to be quite contagious.
“Whether he is organizing a team event within the community or merely greeting children after games, he clearly represents our college with class and depicts what college athletics is all about.”