Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hayes named OHL's top humanitarian

The Ontario Hockey League today announced that forward Ryan Hayes of the Plymouth Whalers is the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy Winner presented to the OHL’s Humanitarian of the Year for the 2009-10 season.

Hayes, a 20-year-old from Syracuse, N.Y., led the Whalers organization in his third OHL season with 54 official community appearances representing participation in nearly a quarter of the team’s total community events. Hayes follows Chris Terry as the second straight member of the Whalers to receive this award.

“I had a great role model last year working with Chris (Terry) in the community” said Hayes. “It really is a huge honour for me to win this award. It means a lot to be able to give back to the community as a hockey player. I remember when I was younger how much it meant to me to see older guys at appearances, and hopefully the kids we reach out to give back when they get older.”

This season Hayes took on a leadership role for the Whalers in the “Friends of Jaclyn” program which supports the non-profit charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors. The Whalers were paired up with seven-year-old Johnny Muller and his five-year-old brother, Aidan. Johnny has had a brain tumor since the age of two. Hayes took over the project by explaining to the rest of the players what the program was and the importance of helping out.

“Our whole team was involved in the program” said Hayes. “The boys always put a smile on our faces even after losses. They are a great family and the boys are just like little brothers to me.”

After learning of the boys’ interest in becoming hockey players, Hayes organized a private post-game skate and stayed on the ice for nearly two hours providing individual lessons. He has been a constant role-model and friend to both Johnny and Aidan and keeps close contact with the Muller’s to learn the latest news about Johnny’s condition and provide the necessary support. He even drove an hour and a half on an off-day to the boys’ school to take part in a “show and tell” class presentation.

“Ryan not only made Johnny and Aidan feel welcome every weekend, before and after the games, but he went above and beyond to show my boys how much they meant to him” said Krissy Muller. “The boys had never skated before and it was a very scary idea for Johnny considering his tumor sits on the area of his brain that controls balance. Ryan talked him into coming out on the ice with him and made it a night Johnny would later call the best day of his life.”

Serving as an Assistant and Captain throughout the season, Hayes took on a leadership role off the ice in a variety of team initiatives including regular “March is Reading Month” appearances at area schools stressing the importance of education to the students, and the Whalers’ annual “Pink Out” for Breast Cancer Awareness that again featured the entire hockey club dye their hair pink to promote the cause. He also showed extensive participation with Special Olympics Michigan at their annual hockey tournament cheering on the participants, passing out the medals, and staying afterwards to pose for pictures and sign autographs.

“Just having a Plymouth Whaler at the event was enough for our athletes” said Special Olympics Michigan Development Manager Ashley Diersch. “Ryan’s involvement and the true connection he seemed to have with everyone made it one of the best experiences they have had.”

Hayes’ commitment to the community was also evident during the summer when the Whalers’ Learn to Skate Program was almost cancelled due to a lack of instructors. Hayes informed the Whalers front office that he would be willing to teach the classes and promptly moved back to Plymouth for the entire summer to help out.

Each year the OHL awards a player that has demonstrated outstanding qualities as a positive role model in the community with the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy. The Ontario Hockey League Board of Governors announced in 2004 that the OHL Humanitarian of the Year award would be renamed in recognition of the former Owen Sound Platers captain, who was twice named his team's humanitarian of the year in recognition of his tremendous efforts in supporting community activities.

Hayes will officially be presented with the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy at the OHL Awards Ceremony June 9 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He will also be the OHL’s nominee for Humanitarian of the Year at the Annual CHL Awards.

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