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Hub exclusive: Avs, CAHA and Toyota team up to honor hard-working people in the hockey community as Hard Hat Heroes

By John Wagner and Mike Randleman, SportsEngine, 02/14/20, 3:45PM MST

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The first-year program provides a financial gift to those receiving the recognition. Nominate your Hard Hat Hero candidates now.

Grinders can be found in all facets of hockey and at all levels. Players, parents, coaches, officials, administrators, trainers, bus drivers, ticket takers, skate sharpeners...the list is virtually endless and many perform these roles far from the limelight. But now, their time to shine has arrived and you can help aim the spotlight on those grinders.

The Colorado Avalanche has teamed with area Toyota dealerships and the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association to recognize, thank and support heroes in the Colorado hockey community through the Hard Hat Heroes program. 

The Avs and CAHA are now accepting nominations for individuals from across the state who have demonstrated a love for hockey and deserve recognition. It can be someone who has taken on any task — both big and small — or overcome adversity to make sure others benefit from involvement in the sport. 

A select number of nominees will be chosen and honored in March at an Avalanche game. These Hard Hat Heroes will be given a financial gift as a way of honoring them for their contributions to hockey and supporting the sport in Colorado.

“The hockey world, I believe, is one of the leaders in having empathy for one another. We may be opponents when the puck is dropped, but we’re all human. And when the final horn sounds, the hockey community does a great job of sticking together and supporting their own. (Hard Hat Heroes) is an extension of that spirit.”

— Randy Kanai,
Colorado Amateur Hockey Association president

This is the first year for Hard Hat Heroes, but plenty of thought and effort went into creating a program that embodies the compassion found in the state’s hockey community, said CAHA President Randy Kanai.

“Perhaps there’s a family out there who lost a first responder, or a child dealing with medical issues or someone dealing with medical bills,” he said. “We know people have hardships, and this program will help us to assist them in some way.

“The hockey world, I believe, is one of the leaders in having empathy for one another. We may be opponents when the puck is dropped, but we’re all human. And when the final horn sounds, the hockey community does a great job of sticking together and supporting their own. This program is an extension of that spirit.”

Six area Toyota dealerships – AutoNation Toyota Arapahoe, Groove Toyota, Larry H. Miller Toyota Boulder, Mountain States Toyota, Stevinson Toyota East and Stevinson Toyota West – are donating $100 to Colorado Youth Hockey for every goal the Avalanche scores, and the money will be awarded to those chosen as Hard Hat Heroes.

The opportunity to have a more significant role in helping grow the game of hockey is what led the Toyota dealerships to participate. 

“Over the past couple years, we’ve been developing this (program) with the Avalanche to get more involved at the grassroots level,” said Deck Hughes, general manager of Stevinson Toyota. “(The Avalanche) already got into youth hockey in the Denver metro, and we wanted to push that forward. Not just having our name involved, but being able to offer assistance to a lot of families.”

As of Feb. 12, the Avalanche lead the NHL with 200 goals (3.6 per game), and there are plenty of games still to be played.

“These guys are going to make it expensive this year,” Hughes said with a laugh. “But that doesn’t matter. The point is we get to accumulate something to help.”

Helping out is a common trait found in Colorado’s hockey community and Hard Hat Heroes is a way to give back to those grinders whose selfless and sometimes unnoticed acts ensure the success of others, both on and off the ice. 

This program’s success also depends on assistance from the hockey community, this time in the form of nominations of worthy candidates.

Kanai said the hockey community has already responded with some nominations, but he his hoping for more because he knows there are plenty of people who deserve the title of Hard Hat Heroes.

“This is a great program,” he said. “It’s cool to see the community get involved and help people.”

Fans are invited to click on the link to nominate a Hard Hat Hero online at www.co.hockey/hardhatheroes

To learn more about the program, contact the Colorado Avalanche Amateur Hockey Development Department by calling 303-615-6825.

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