Tucker Mullin, 23, is an only child to Joe and Colleen Mullin of Andover.
But as the many people who came to know him for most of his high school and college years, Tucker never fit the common stereotype as spoiled, selfish and bratty. That description couldn’t be further from the truth.
Last night Mullin was named the winner of the prestigious Hockey Humanitarian Award at a ceremony in Pittsburgh during the off-day for the Div. 1 NCAA hockey championships, also known as the Frozen Four.
“Tucker is terrifically driven,” said St. Anselm coach Ed Seney. “He has a passion for hockey and a passion for helping people. My biggest thing is actions speak volumes. Tucker’s actions speak for themselves. He’s a doer and a giver. He is a special young man.”
The St. Anselm senior, who finished his career with 104 points while guiding his team to four consecutive Northeast-10 hockey championships, has been involved in charitable work since his early high school days.
But it was his partnership with Thomas Smith, who was trying out on his junior (post-high school) hockey team, the Boston Bulldogs, that put Mullin in another category when it came to helping others.
Smith went head-first into the boards and was paralyzed from the neck down. Mullin, who barely knew him, was one of the first to visit him in the hospital. A friendship was forged and Smith made a remarkable recovery within a year and miraculously was able to play hockey again.
But a second freakish accident on the ice for Smith and he was paralyzed again. Mullin not only became a bastion of strength for Smith during his second recovery and as he improved, receiving feeling and mobility in most of his body, they decided they would team up and try to find a cure for paralysis.
Mullin and Smith co-founded the Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation. Mullin has helped raise more than $51,000 with a golf tournament and has given out $39,500 in grants to those affected by paralysis.
In fact, one of those grants for $10,000, went to Chic Kelly, a former Merrimack College JV hockey player who was paralyzed as a freshman in 1988. Kelly, a native of Philadelphia, made the special trip to Pittsburgh to see Mullin receive the award.
Oh yes, Mullin is one of central figures in St. Anselm hockey’s association with a third grade Manchester, N.H. boy, Benjamin Roy, as part of Team Impact, which allows terminally ill children a chance to be part of a college team. Roy has been cancer free for five years.
”Why do I do it?” repeated Mullin when asked about his vast dedication for helping others in need. “When I am around others that need support, I believe I should help. I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
There is irony Mullin winning this award is the fact that his goal as a teenage hockey player was to play Div. 1, the highest level. Originally offered a spot at St. Anselm out of high school, Mullin attended Phillips Andover Academy for one year and then played junior hockey for another before embarking on his college career.
It was a lesson that still resonates today.
”Of course, I wanted Div. 1. I chased the dream,” said Mullin. “But along the way, I realized regardless of where you end up, it’s really important to make the most of what you have.”
Mullin also learned the game he loved taught him more about family, love and friendship than it did about individual success and winning, two things he did a lot of over his career.
”I look at all of the people I’ve met through hockey,” said Mullin. “It’s been an amazing run. I got so much out of this sport.”
Mullin also credited his parents with not only keeping him grounded, despite being an only child, but showing him the importance of hard work.
”They are my role models,” said Mullin. “I witnessed hard work every day watching them. It all starts with them. I am so thankful.”
Hockey Humanitarian Award mission statement In an era of ever-increasing ego display, when so many of today's athletes are sending the wrong message to our children and when success often seems measured solely by dollar signs and contract signings, it is time to call attention to individuals who embody all that is, and can be, right with sport. While the media often seem preoccupied with the antics of players after the whistle or outside the game -- all the while decrying the absence of better role models for our youth -- the Hockey Humanitarians want to put sports, and all of its participants, in the proper perspective. And, while team games, by definition, encompass both teamwork and the contributions of the individual to the success of the group as a whole, we want to acknowledge the accomplishments of personal character, scholarship, and the giving of oneself off the ice to the larger community as well. The Humanitarian Award is meant to be seen as a true measure of a person's worth, not just as an athlete, but as someone who embodies those values that merit our recognition.