April 15, 2010 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL) - Plymouth Whalers
PLYMOUTH, MI - The Plymouth Whalers have established a tradition of excellence on the ice in their 20-year history of developing players for the National Hockey League. The organization takes just as much pride in developing their players off the ice.
The Ontario Hockey League announced today that Plymouth Whalers forward Ryan Hayes has been named the recipient of the league\'s Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy as OHL Humanitarian of the Year. Hayes is the second member of the Whalers to receive the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy, named after the former member of the Owen Sound Platers (1995-99) who won the team\'s Humanitarian of the Year Award twice before playing in the National Hockey League with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002-03. Last year, Whalers captain Chris Terry won the award.
Hayes, 20, earned the award with his tireless devotion to the Whalers Community Relations efforts, becoming the Whalers\' lead ambassador doing 54 team assigned appearances including school visits and Learn-to-Skate classes, while doing other unscheduled appearances at youth practices. In a demonstration of his relentlessness to give back to the community, Hayes gave up his summer back home in Syracuse, New York, last year to give back to kids in Plymouth. In mid-July when he found out that the learn to skate and learn to play classes at Compuware were going to be cancelled because they didn't have an instructor, Hayes packed up all his stuff and moved back to Plymouth the next day to teach for the rest of the summer.
Hayes was instrumental with Terry in coordinating the Whalers first-ever Pink Out! for Breast Cancer Awareness in October 2008, an event that saw the entire Plymouth team dye their hair pink for the event and raised public awareness towards breast cancer. He once again convinced the team to dye their hair pink this season for the cause.
"As an organization, we couldn't be prouder of Ryan and what he has done in the community," said Plymouth President, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Vellucci. "Although we love developing players for the next level of hockey, it means more to me to see them become great people. Ryan requested to be a part of all the appearances and never hesitated to get involved. We actually had to cut back on some of his appearances because he was spending all his free time in the community. He deserves this award and we are proud of the work he has done."
This season, Hayes has been the leader for the Whalers with the Friends of Jaclyn program, which pairs kids with brain tumors with high school and college sports teams. The Whalers adopted brother Johnny and Aidan Muller as Johnny, 7, has had a brain tumor since he was 18 months old. Hayes took over the partnership with the family and explained to all the Whalers what they were doing. On his rare day off, he and a couple of the other players went to Johnny and Aidan's school to be their show-and-tell. It was also a day that Johnny had to go to the doctors for more tests, so Hayes helped calm his fears and tell him everything would be alright. Hayes would text Johnny's parents to check up on him and see how different doctors visits went. He also gained a sidekick in young Aidan as he was always found in Hayes' stall after games and they even became Batman and Batboy together.
"One of the biggest challenges for me during Johnny\'s journey is to make sure Aidan receives the attention he needs," said Johnny and Aidan's mother, Krissy. "It was as if Ryan completely understood that. He understood that Aidan needed a supportive atmosphere just as much as Johnny, and became my go-to-guy when Aidan was feeling a little left out or just needed some extra attention. Aidan had decided that he and Ryan would be superheroes and wore a Batman costume to the game. He brought a Batman mask for Ryan to wear and of course Ryan had no problem wearing it. The two of them skated for hours in their costumes! Ryan didn\'t care if he looked silly he only cared about making Aidan happy. He also made sure the rest of the Whalers wore Batman masks too!"
Besides his involvement with the Friends of Jaclyn program, Hayes did appearances for the Special Olympics as well as being the most requested player to read at schools during "March is Reading Month." He also works the Whalers Summer camps and sticks and pucks sessions during the season.
"Without Ryan Hayes, I know our involvement in schools and other events wouldn\'t have had as much of an impact because people can tell he genuinely cares and follows up with a lot of them after the event," said Natalie Shaver, the Whalers Sales and Marketing Administrator who coordinates and attends all the team's public appearances. "I could count on him for anything and I truly thank him for everything. He's been amazing in the community and especially with Johnny and Aidan. I joked with him that he had big shoes to fill when Chris Terry left, but now he has left even bigger shoes to fill."
"I had a great role model last year working with Chris (Terry) in the community," said Hayes. "It really is a huge honor 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."
Hayes will be formally presented with the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy at the 2009-10 OHL Awards Ceremony set for Wednesday 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 Canadian Hockey Leauge Annual Awards.