The old adage that “something good always comes out of something bad” rang true on Tuesday night as Lu Ann and Graham Snyder awarded four local students with the Dan Snyder Memorial Scholarship in memory of their son and local hockey star.
Dan rose through the Elmira hockey ranks from the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association to the Elmira Sugar Kings, before moving on to the OHL where he played for the Owen Sound Attack. He was part of the IHL champion Orlando Solar Bears in 2000-01, and the AHL champion Chicago Wolves in 2001-02 before joining the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers.
In October of 2003, Dan succumbed to injuries suffered in a car accident. The Dan Snyder Memorial Scholarship Fund was created shortly after through donations from NHL players, along with an auction of game-worn jerseys by the National Hockey League Players’ Association. More than $49,720 has been awarded to local students and athletes since its inception.
Now in its 13th year, scholarships of $1,200 were given to four familiar faces: Zac Coulter, Rob Kohli, Tyler Moser and Cassandra Tuffnail.
“We’re honoured to have Dan’s name on this,” Graham said of the trophy that has the recipients’ names engraved on it and can usually be found at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
“He was very much a community-minded young man. He did a lot of things, I’m reading through your résumés that you sent in, I see a lot of that there, a lot of giving back to the community and we’re very thankful for that.”
Kohli and Coulter both received the awards in the Elmira Sugar Kings category, while Moser’s was given for the Woolwich Minor Hockey category and Tuffnail’s was for the Woolwich Community Open category.
The recipients are chosen each year by a panel that includes the Snyders. They must be attending an accredited postsecondary institution in the fall and possess qualities Dan exemplified: dedication, determination, scholastics and sportsmanship.
This year, they received more applications than ever before.
“I read through them and I was kind of grading and going ‘oh this is number one’ and then ‘oh I’ll put this in the number one pile.’ I had five and they were so good, I thought how can we ever pick? It was just amazing, absolutely amazing,” Lu Ann said.
Coulter played for the Sugar Kings for the past four seasons and was an assistant captain this season. He set Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League records for most games played and total points accumulated. He’ll suit up for the University of Waterloo Wolves men’s hockey team this fall, where he’ll be taking an honours in recreation and leisure studies.
Kohli also spent the past four seasons with the Elmira team and took on the role of captain for the 2015-16 season after one season as an assistant captain. He’s sticking close to home and heading to Conestoga College to study electrical engineering next month.
Elmira District Secondary School grad Moser represented Canada in the World Junior U18 Ball Hockey Championships earlier this year where they brought home gold. He also played on the major midget Elmira Junior Sugar Kings team this season. He’s off to earn a double degree at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo in honours business administration and math.
Tuffnail was an active student at EDSS during the past four years, from playing on numerous sports teams like rugby and field hockey, to helping organize events and raise funds through Youth in Action. She’s going to the University of Guelph to begin her bachelor of science in human kinetics.
Rick Weiss spoke on behalf of the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation and the K-W Community Foundation.
“I don’t say this every year, this was tough. This year was absolutely amazing. This was the toughest year, the most applicants and the most quality applicants,” Weiss said.
He recalled in 2003 when the Snyders were invited to a New Year’s Eve game by Steve Yzerman between the Thrashers and the Detroit Red Wings a few months after Dan’s death, but they called Weiss and asked he and his wife to go on their behalf.
“They had 37 patches sewn on all the jerseys. Long story short, after the game Avery and I worked with the NHL Players’ Association and we scooped all the jerseys off their backs,” Weiss said.
They ended up raising about US$83,000 for the auction, which was around $100,000 Canadian.
They only disperse the scholarships from the income generated by that money.
A goalie for the Winnipeg Jets will wear Dan’s number, 37, for the upcoming season. They called the Snyders to ask for permission, which they appreciated. The Atlanta Thrashers were sold to True North Sports & Entertainment in 2011 and became the Winnipeg Jets.
“We’ve had a lot of satisfaction from being able to do this each and every year,” Graham said.
Weiss notes eventually the NHLPA will take over the scholarship which is under the direction of the K-W Community Foundation, to ensure it continues to honour Dan’s legacy.
“One thing that will never leave probably a lot of our lives is the scene from the funeral home to the church of the road with all the little guys and the ladies with the sticks,” Weiss recalled of Dan’s funeral in Elmira. “I still get choked up when I think about that, just tapping on the ground as the hearse was rolling by.”
Applications for the 2017 scholarships will be available next year at www.37risingstars.com.