Zigomanis wins Dupré award, Leach on being a finalist, and on Boston
The AHL announced the Toronto Marlies’ Mike Zigomanis has won the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award, which is the league’s Man of the Year Award, named for a 1995 AHL All-Star who played four seasons with the Hershey Bears and 35 games with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. He died in 1997 at the age of 24 after fighting leukemia for 16 months.
Each of the AHL’s team names its own Man of the Year recipient, and those 30 honorees are finalists for the league’s award.
Among the recipients of the team awards was Albany Devils captain and Altamont native Jay Leach, Clifton Park’s Nick Petrecki (Worcester Sharks), and former Albany River Rats Zack FitzGerald (Adirondack Phantoms) and Mike McKenna (Peoria Rivermen) were all finalists for their work in their teams’ communities.
As the team’s captain, Leach was the spokesman at several of the Devils’ community functions. Also, after December’s car accident that killed two local high school athletes, Leach and a few teammates visited one of the survivors — Matthew Hardy — at his home. Leach asked the organization to keep the visit out of the media at the time, since he feels such actions are what should be expected of people, not treated as the exception and thrust into the spotlight.
“It’s an honor, obviously, but that sort of award, I feel, shouldn’t even be out there. It should be kept kind of quiet,” Leach said. “So it’s mixed feelings for me. I’d rather do what I can, but at the same time, it’s for the benefit of the people I do it with.
“That’s what we should be doing, no matter what, especially in today’s world where there’s so much tragedy and we’re so blessed to be able to play hockey and do what we do. It’s an honor, and on behalf of the organization, I’ll gladly accept it. But I don’t want to bring too much light to it. I think everyone should be doing things like that.”
Speaking after Thursday’s practice in Albany, Leach also addressed the terrorist attack at Monday’s Boston Marathon. Leach and his wife, Kathryn Tappen, have called Boston home for the last eight years.
“My immediate friends and family are safe and sound,” Leach said. “I’ve heard from some people through friends, and know people who were affected by it. Boston’s a really small town. It’s a city, but everyone knows everyone. I have buddies a block away [from the bombing]. I actually was going to go with my wife, but we ended up not going. We usually are there, right around that area, every year. We’re usually on another street, so I don’t think we would have been affected.
“Thankfully, everyone around our circle was not affected. But I feel like Boston is so tight-knit that if you mess with one person, you’re messing with the city. That’s kind of the way they feel, I’m sure.
“My friends were down there. I have a good family friend of mine who was at the finish line 15 minutes before it happened. I think Joe [Whitney] had a guy running across the finish line five seconds before it happened. It hits home, for sure.”
Some of Leach’s friends have described the city as “eerily quiet” in the days after the bombing, but the crowd watching Wednesday’s Boston Bruins game against the Buffalo Sabres was anything but quiet. The crowd inside the Garden started the night by singing the national anthem, the lyrics and meaning so relevant to their heartache and resilience — after everything they can throw at us, we’re still here, and we’re still strong.
“That really epitomizes what I view as Boston and why I fell in love with the city,” said Leach, who caught the game on TV. “People are going to be down on their luck and things like that are going to happen, but at the end of the day, people will come out of it, with remembrance of the victims.”