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Syracuse Crunch player honored for community outreach

The 2013-14 season may not have produced the results Syracuse Crunch fans were hoping for after their first appearance in the Calder Cup final, but the campaign did yield some highlights.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – The 2013-14 season may not have produced the results Syracuse Crunch fans were hoping for after their first appearance in the Calder Cup final, but the campaign did yield some highlights.

Among them, the American Hockey League has singled out one of team’s most popular players for a top award.

Eric Neilson may be known for his toughness on the ice, but the league recognized him for his work away from the rink.

"A few of the older guys we're there, we got up and were cheering, high fiving, giving me hugs so a little bit of energy there which felt good, but when I heard the news I was very humbled and very honored that the American Hockey League gave me that award,” Neilson said.

The Crunch have hit the road for their final two games of this season – their 20th campaign – and in that time the organization has never had a player win the Man of the Year award for the AHL, until Eric Neilson.

"I can get in front of a crowd and just be talking like it was just me and you, so I guess I have this gift. I said it before, I really enjoy that, some people like certain things that make them happy, mine happens to be helping out in the community,” Neilson said.

If he’s not helping with the team’s “Teddy Toss” to benefit the Salvation Army, Neilson is standing in front of a crowd of young people talking about the importance of nutrition.

Neilson says he is always trying to make time for community outreach around the hectic schedule of a professional hockey player.

"To see other people enjoying themselves and have a smile on their face puts a smile on my face,” Neilson said.

Neilson has won the Man of the Year award on every team he’s played for in the past six years.

This is the first time he’s been recognized league wide.

He is currently recovering from hip surgery and hopes to be ready for Syracuse’s training camp by next fall.

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