CHICAGO – St. Michael’s College men’s ice hockey players Danny Divis and Justin McKenzie were named winners of the 22nd annual Hockey Humanitarian Award on Friday night during a ceremony at the Division I Frozen Four weekend.
The two seniors are the first co-recipients ever of the award, which honors college hockey’s finest citizens. The Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation highlights student-athletes who make significant contributions not only to their team but also to the community through leadership in volunteerism, according to a news release.
Divis and McKenzie fulfilled that mission as the founders of Hope Happens Here, an effort to promote mental health awareness and wellness among college students.
“It’s unbelievable to be chosen for the Hockey Humanitarian Award,” McKenzie said in a statement. “It’s surreal to see where Hope Happens Here has led us. I couldn’t be more thankful to team up with Dan to make a difference in mental health, something we have both been affected by in one way or another.
“To have his support after losing a friend to suicide, and the support of the rest of our team and community as it continued to grow, has been overwhelming.”
Divis and McKenzie are the first Purple Knights to win the accolade. Former men’s ice hockey players John Flint and Alex Higgins had previously reached the finalist stage, and only four non-Division I players had ever earned the honor.
“We didn’t start this organization to win any awards or gain any recognition, and we still feel the same way, even though winning the award is obviously still an honor,” Divis said in a statement. “From the start, it has been about starting an important conversation, and now we can hopefully get to see this conversation happen on a much broader scale. That’s what really excites me.”
The duo co-founded Hope Happens Here as juniors during the 2015-16 school year as an effort toward “removing the stigma of mental health issues on college campuses,” according to a release.
“Mental health is always a difficult thing to talk about, and the fact that our community has opened up to address this issue makes me so thankful to have chosen to attend St. Michael’s,” said McKenzie. “I would also like to thank my family for getting behind me in something I was passionate about. My family has also unfortunately been affected by suicide, and to have their support means so much to me. I’m so excited for the direction Hope Happens Here is heading, and want to be a part of this for a long time to come.”
Divis and McKenzie have supported various community causes in the past four years, including participating in the Vermont Walk to End Alzheimer’s and the Vermont Pride Festival and Parade.
The other finalists for this year’s Hockey Humanitarian Award were all Division I student-athletes: Men’s players Anders Bjork of the Notre Dame, Collin Delia of Merrimack and David Goodwin of Penn State, and Mika Nervick of the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey program. Divis and McKenzie were among 15 Division I, II and III men’s and women’s ice hockey players from across the nation nominated for this year’s award.