Senior Josh Kosack won’t be playing hockey for Union College this season, or ever again.
He will still manage to score a hat trick.
And a coat trick.
And socks and gloves.
He started his three-goal performance on Friday morning at the Schenectady City Mission on Hamilton Street, where Kosack and senior co-captain Sean Harrison dropped off about 100 coats they had collected through a campus donation drive.
Next stop was the county Department of Social Services on Broadway, to give clothes bought with $300 in donations, and in a few weeks Kosack plans to bring Christmas presents for the kids at COCOA House, the youth mentoring and tutoring center in Hamilton Hill.
The Dutchmen are in the midst of finals week for the fall trimester, but are not in the midst of hockey season, which typically would’ve begun a month ago. In light of COVID-19 concerns, the college canceled hockey on Tuesday, which means that, unbeknownst to Kosack at the time, his last game in a Union uniform came over eight months ago, in a double-overtime playoff loss at Yale.
After ramping up his charitable efforts through Kozi’s Kids last season, the forward from Oakville, Ontario, didn’t want to abandon his community outreach objectives this season, even if there wasn’t a season. So he and Harrison made two stops on Friday, and Kosack will make a side trip back to Schenectady during the term break in December to play Santa Claus for COCOA House.
“I know those kids wouldn’t be able to interact with their friends all the time and all the pressures they face with going to school,” Kosack said, “and I was speaking with [COCOA House executive director] Will Rivas. He said this is the time of year when they start getting tons and tons of donations and presents, but this year, with all the hard times, they barely had any.
“So I was thinking there might be something I could do, since they can’t come to our games and I just kind of wanted to bring some holiday spirit there. He mentioned a lot of them wake up without Christmas trees and presents. This was a way I could put a smile on Christmas and boost some holiday spirit at the COCOA House.”
Kosack started Kozi’s Kids two seasons ago when he saw his teammates’ tickets to home games at Messa Rink going unused, usually because it was too far for their families to travel. He gathered the tickets and offered them to Rivas to distribute to kids in the city whose families perhaps could not afford to go to games.
Last season, Kozi’s Kids attended games pretty much every home weekend, and Kosack passed out mini-sticks and advice and answered questions from his biggest fans after the games.
With at least a cancellation — and certainly the prospect of no fan attendance — looming this season, he came up with some ideas, starting with the City Mission coat drive.
People on campus and beyond responded.
“Here’s what really comes to mind, I’m so impressed that, in the midst of their own disappointment, they’re reaching out to help somebody else,” long-time City Mission executive director Mike Saccocio said. “It would’ve been very easy for them being disappointed about the season and pack it up, and instead they went out and worked with their friends and did something that’s going to make a difference for their neighbors who are in need.”
Saccocio said the City Mission relies 100% on public donations and doesn’t receive any government funding.
Last year, they handed out about 1,300 winter coats, and the boxes the Union players brought on Friday will boost the 2020 total.
Toward the COCOA House goal, Kosack started a GoFundMe account titled Kozi’s Kids Christmas Fundraiser and had reached $1,330 toward his $2,500 target as of Friday afternoon.
With the season canceled and students on a long break after finals end next Tuesday, Kosack will stay at the home of teammate Joseph Campolieto in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and make the 2 1/2-hour drive back to Schenectady for a shopping spree and a pit stop at COCOA House to deliver the kids’ gifts sometime in December.
In the meantime, the Union players can only watch as most of the rest of Division I hockey proceeds with a 2020-21 schedule, including four schools from Union’s own conference, ECAC Hockey.
“We were sitting on the couch the past couple days watching hockey on TV, and it’s tough to watch other people play when we got our season shut down,” Harrison said. “But we talked to the administration, and they wanted to make the best decision for Union and felt it was the right one. That doesn’t make it any easier when you’re watching 50 teams getting their seasons going when we’re shutting it down.”
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Kosack said of his hockey future. “The terrible thought about this whole situation is I could’ve played my last game of hockey without even knowing it, at Yale last year. That’s very heart-breaking to think about. We’ll see what opportunities come about, but I really don’t know what to expect at this point.”
That includes the Christmas present dropoff next month.
Kosack had planned to dress up as Santa Claus — “throw some pillows in there” — and distribute the presents to the kids at COCOA House himself, but that won’t happen now.
Still, “I know I’ve had a big impact on their life, but they’ve had a big impact on my life in realizing what really matters … giving back,” he said. “It’s been a great experience for me.”
He and Harrison wore new Union hockey jerseys while making their rounds on Friday, each with a fresh letter “C” on the shoulder, after having been named co-captains by head coach Rick Bennett six weeks ago.
There’s no reason for that “C” to go to waste, though. It can stand for something else.
City Mission, and COCOA House, and community come to mind …