This award has been presented annually since 1998 to an AHL player for his outstanding contributions to his local community and charitable organizations. The Yanick Dupre Memorial Award winner is selected by the AHL and representatives from IOA and American Specialty from among 30 individual team Man of the Year honorees.
A six-time recipient of his team's Yanick Dupre Award nomination (in five AHL cities), Neilson's efforts this year were highlighted by his creation of the "Breakfast with a Champion" program, designing, developing and executing his initiative designed to teach elementary school students the importance of nutrition and healthy eating.
Neilson was involved in every step of the program's planning process, from pitching it to local schools to shopping for groceries to supplying students with tickets to Crunch games as rewards for their participation.
Neilson was also the primary speaker in the Crunch's anti-bullying program, and the team's main spokesman for Upstate University Hospital, including their "safe kids" public service initiative about concussion prevention. He also dedicated time to issues such as men's and women's health causes, generating awareness for breast cancer and heading up the team's winning "Mustache Movember" team for prostate cancer research.
The AHL's annual Man of the Year award is named after the late Yanick Dupre, who died in 1997 at the age of 24 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. A third-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991, Dupre played four seasons in the AHL with the Hershey Bears and was an AHL All-Star in 1995.