MONTREAL -- With fists of fury and a heart of gold, Bulldogs tough guy Eric Neilson has been making his mark on and off the ice in Hamilton.
For the second straight season, the 6-foot-2 enforcer is in the spotlight for all the right reasons. Neilson is the Bulldogs’ nominee for the Yanick Dupre Memorial given annually to the AHL man of the year for service to his community, an award he was also up for in Peoria last year.
Always willing to jump in to help a teammate on the ice, Neilson has been just as active all over his adopted city – especially when it comes to making a difference for kids in the community. After suffering a back injury that has shelved him since the end of February, the hulking defenseman has made even more effort to chip in anywhere he can with his new-found free time.
In conjunction with the Bulldogs foundation, Neilson has been touring local schools, spreading positive messages about studying hard, leading a healthy, active lifestyle and encouraging teens to stay away from smoking.
Sidney Crosby’s former body guard from his days in Rimouski, Neilson took part in Christmas gift delivery for sick children and served lunch at the Bulldogs’ annual “Soupfest”. He is also the ‘Dogs spokesperson for all fundraising efforts relating to their charitable foundation.
While there is no denying his impressive volunteer resume, Neilson remains above all a hockey player. So far this season, the Bulldogs’ tough guy has dropped the gloves 12 times on his way to piling up a team-high 94 penalty minutes. Neilson also made quite an impression at the Habs training camp when he dropped the gloves three times in one preseason game against the Senators on Sept. 18.
Neilson becomes the third Bulldog to win this award since it was first handed out in 1997-98, joining Mike Minard in 1999-00 and Duncan Milroy in 2004-05.Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.See alsoGame preview: Canadiens-Hurricanes Habs ink Brendon Nash Habs Notebook - March 30 Pyatt vs. Pyatt Shuffling the deck