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Vincent Nicolella controls the puck at Bird Arena on Friday night. Ohio beat John Carroll 5-0. 

Hockey team awards ‘hard hat’

Recently established Bobcat tradition goes beyond the stat sheet.

Awards encapsulate everything people love.

Awards have tradition, they recognize winning and eye-popping statistics, and they give us something to cover, analyze and debate over.

It’s worth noting, however, that the vast majority of awards are decided upon by writers and media personnel. Those handing out the awards haven’t seen each player in practice during the week. They don’t always know which athletes are playing through injuries, which players made big strides in something they were coached on or who is making a special contribution that the stat sheet just doesn’t show.

The Ohio hockey team knows that, and that’s why they’ve had a weekly tradition of players handing out a hard hat award for years.

“I think it’s important because it’s not really based on stats,” said senior defenseman Michael Kretz. “Someone could be working really hard throughout the game, getting in on penalty kills, and it may not be stuff that the media sees. It’s just how we feel in the locker room.”

The award started back in 2002, when Russ Scurto, who was the son of a construction company owner, brought in a hard hat that the players painted and dressed up with stickers. The hat was passed around after games until Scurto graduated in 2004, and took the hat with him.

A couple of years later, a then-goaltender for the Bobcats was working a summer job at Scurto’s construction company, when Russ gave him the hard hat and told him to bring it back to Ohio with him. It’s been about five years since then, and the award has been a mainstay in the locker room ever since.

“There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that decide who gets the hard hat that the fans or media don’t get to see,” said former coach Dan Morris. “It’s not necessarily the guy who goes out and scores three goals. It could be the guy who played hurt, was on light practice all week and then went out on the weekend and didn’t change how he played and blocked four or five shots. Those are the kinds of things teammates admire.”

Up through last year, the player who won the award would be the one to decide who to give it to the following game. This year, the award has taken on a different style, with players assigning “game pucks.” A piece of paper is placed on it announcing who the recipient is, along with the game score, and it is placed on the wall.

Kretz won the first hard hat of the year, while defenseman Paul Sergi, forward Joe Breslin and forward Liam Geither have received the award since.

The award remained out of the public eye until last year, when Bobcats hockey media director Ryan Boyd began to release information about who won the award each week. For players, however, the extra attention for the recipients is precisely the point of the award.

“I’m a strong believer that the hockey community at Ohio is exceptional and a lot like family,” Boyd said. “Any way I can clue them in, I try to do so.”


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