CALGARY, AB -- It’s no big secret around the city, but Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano
is every bit the leader away from Scotiabank Saddledome as he is at it.
It's why he was named the Foundation Award winner at Wednesday's NHL Awards in Las Vegas.
"I enjoy doing work in the community," Giordano said in an interview with Sportsnet 960 The FAN on Monday. "I enjoy doing charity work, and I think a lot of guys in the NHL do a great job for it. To be recognized and nominated, it’s obviously not why you do it but it’s a cool thing and cool experience.”
The Foundation award has been around since the 1997-98 season and is awarded to the player who "applies the core values of hockey, commitment, perseverance and teamwork -- to enrich the lives of people in his community,” according to the NHL.
He’s certainly done that.
The Flames captain has matched the leadership shown on the ice in initiatives away from the rink.
For the past two seasons, Giordano and wife Lauren have partnered with the Calgary Board of Education to create Team Giordano, a unique community program which provides resources to four low-income Calgary schools.
Funding from Team Giordano helps support the purchase of computers, journals, and other school supplies, while also supplying floor hockey equipment.
The program, funded by the Giordano’s, the Calgary Flames Foundation, Pizza 73 and the Italian Open Charity Golf Tournament that the captain chairs every summer, has donated $200,000 to its four schools, impacting the lives of 1,400 students.
“We had a conversation shortly after we had our own son about helping out, and we’ve always enjoyed getting into charities and helping out in the community,” Giordano said. “We wanted to do something unique and start something we created, basically. Working with children was one of our goals. We partnered with the Calgary school board and from where it started to where it is today I wouldn’t have imagined. It’s been great. There’s been a ton of support from people in the community.
“Basically the program, what I like most about the program, is we support the school board and different schools, which they helped us choose. It’s specific to each school and community. That’s what I really like about it. Certain schools start different programs based on what their principals and teachers think their community needs.”
Community initiatives are nothing new to Giordano.
He has served as spokesman for the Flames’ literacy program, Reading...Give It a Shot! And was featured on the program bookmarks, posters and partner website as an advocate for literacy. Through visiting numerous schools, Giordano committed his time to assisting students to promote the positive effects of reading.
In 2011, Giordano and his wife Lauren launched a Habitat for Humanity partnership titled 5-for-5. In three seasons supporting the initiative, 5-for-5 helped provide funding to build five homes; four in the developing countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, India and the Philippines, and another in the Calgary area. Giordano donated $25,000 per season with the Flames Foundation for Life (now known as the Calgary Flames Foundation) matching his contributions equaling a $150,000 donation to the cause.
Last September, Giordano marched alongside Flames president of hockey operations and the Parade Grand Marshal Brian Burke in the annual Calgary Pride Parade. He also lent his voice to various public service announcements in support of the You Can Play Project, an advocacy program that challenges sports teams to stamp out discrimination based on sexual orientation.
More recently, Giordano was awarded the Ralph T. Scurfield Humanitarian Award, presented annually to the Flames player who best exemplifies perseverance, determination and leadership on the ice, combined with dedication to community service off the ice.
Team Giordano is just another example of that service.
“We’ve had all sorts of different programs,” Giordano said. “We’ve had rooms built for mentorship rooms for kids to go hang out after school. We’ve had artists come into some schools. One school needed a total revamp of their gym. Another school is going to build an outdoor court for their students.
“There’s all different types of programs and things that we’re helping out with. That, for me, is the best part of the program.”