Home College Nichols School Grad Receives 2024 Hockey Humanitarian Award

Nichols School Grad Receives 2024 Hockey Humanitarian Award

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By Warren Kozireski —

Buffalo’s Dylan Lugris was named the 2024 Hockey Humanitarian Award recipient at ceremonies held at the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota.

A product of the Amherst Knights, Buffalo Jr. Sabres and Nichols School, Lugris just finished his junior season at forward for Penn State and was recognized for his efforts in growing the State College Coyotes sled hockey team.

According to a release on the HHA website: Over the past few years, a local sled hockey team in State College, Pennsylvania, has developed a fan following among Penn State’s men’s hockey program. Nittany Lions coach Guy Gadowsky approached the State College Coyotes, who practice out of PSU’s Pegula Ice Arena, to ask if he could hit a sled with them. He then encouraged his own players to do the same.

Among them was Lugris, who has now organized two editions of the Penn State Sled Hockey Classic, pitting his team against the Coyotes.

“I had started going to those practices with a couple of the guys on our team, and over time, I started to develop some good relationships with the Coyotes and was asking them questions and wanted to see if they played any games or how their season looked and how they ran their program,” Lugris said.

“When they told me they don’t get to play games because it’s expensive to travel and get people place to place, I thought, ‘We’ll play you here. We’ve got enough guys that we’ll play here and try to raise some money for next year so that you can travel and build the program.’”

Lugris got the green light from Gadowsky to spearhead the project, and in February of last year, the first Penn State Sled Hockey Classic was held. The game was held in front of a crowded Roar Zone, Penn State’s hockey student section, with Nittany Lions players putting on the whole show between playing, coaching the teams, officiating the game, ushering for fans, and even running the scoreboard and public address system. A second edition of the event was held last month, and in terms of what happened on the ice, there was more to keep track of.

“The first year we did it, they only had nine or 10 people in their program, and it was easy to do us versus them, but this year, since we raised money and grew the sport a little bit, they actually grew their program to 22 players,” Lugris said. “We had line changes this year, and one of their players played for us because it was always a dream of his to play for Penn State, so Gads played for the Coyotes in a little trade.

“All our guys got involved, and when I brought it up to them the first time, they were all for it. The way we had to schedule it, we could only do it on a bye week and had to do it in a morning, so to get the response that we did of, ‘How can we help, what can we do,’ at 9 a.m. on a Saturday when we’re supposed to be off says a lot about who they are and our culture.”

The annual event has helped the Coyotes in other ways, too. They are now proud members of the Northeast Sled Hockey League and play in multiple games per month thanks in part to the nearly $50,000 that Penn State’s players have raised for the club over the past year.

“I’m a lot better than when I started, but I don’t think that says very much” Lugris said after the ceremony about his sled-hockey skills. “The way to tell if you’re decent or not is, there are two blades on all the sleds and, as you get better, (the space between them) increasing gets narrower and narrower. Mine has maybe gone in half an inch, maybe.

“When I moved to Buffalo, our whole class every year (at Nichols) did a philanthropy event whether that was planting trees or doing a soup kitchen, so that kind of where it started for me.

“One of more special parts of that whole day (the sled hockey fundraising game) was when we announced their names for the starting lineup and they got to skate out to the blueline and look at the Roar Zone and feels what it feels like for us, something we take for granted sometimes…and to give them that experience was really special.”

Lugris credits Penn State staff members for helping behind the scenes, but all game day preparation and in-arena work was done by PSU players. And both times, the event exceeded Gadowsky’s expectations, because of the scale of the project.

(Photos by Lugris and Koz/NY Hockey OnLine)