LAS VEGAS -- Jason Zucker made a bold fashion statement in a wide pinstriped suit in the green of his Minnesota Wild at NHL Awards Media Day on Tuesday. It was being worn for the first time but, he said with a grin, "will be worn again next year, absolutely."
Whether that suit will still be Zucker's team colors next season is anyone's guess, the 27-year-old forward's name swirling in trade talk for last month.
It was the green elephant in the room that Zucker wasn't discussing on Tuesday, happy to focus on being a finalist for the 2019 King Clancy Memorial Trophy. This is the second consecutive year that Zucker has been a finalist for the Clancy, awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
Other finalists are Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. The winner will be announced Wednesday at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).
In 2017, Zucker and his wife, Carly, started a fundraising campaign for the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. The couple have brightened the lives of countless children with the #GIVE16 campaign, so named for Zucker's jersey number, and more than $1 million raised to give kids and their families a place to watch Wild games in an environment that simulates being at a game.
The NHL's first Nevada-produced player, Zucker is back on home soil this week.
"It's always a little bit weird being here for work reasons," he said. "But it still makes it a lot of fun."
He's spent all eight of his NHL seasons with the Wild, chosen in the second round (No. 59) of the 2010 NHL Draft, scoring 214 points (118 goals, 96 assists) in 411 games since 2011-12.
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It's in Minneapolis-St. Paul that his charity efforts took root; Zucker, the Wild's 2018-19 Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador, also works with Minnesota Special Hockey, for players of all ages with developmental disabilities.
But the focal point for Jason and Carly Zucker this week is the late Tucker Helstrom, whose remarkable courage before he died in 2016 of osteosarcoma stirred them into action.
"This is phenomenal," Zucker said of the Clancy nomination. "My wife and I feel that this is a huge community award based off the #GIVE16 campaign and everything we were able to do in Minneapolis and St. Paul and entire state of Minnesota, really. To be able to honor Tucker the way that we have is what it's all about. It's all for him. We just wish that he was here to be able to see it all. …
"What he inspired Carly and me to do, just to see what hopefully we're inspiring others to do, to give back, and to create a legacy for him. This would never have happened if he didn't leave that impression on us."
Giving back, Zucker said, has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. He first met Carly at a charity event that she had built from the ground up, running all of it by herself.
"It's been fun to build this charity together and do it all together," he said. "I remember when I was a kid, looking up to players and wanting to be like them. … I was a huge Pavel Datsyuk fan and, being from Vegas, my being able to watch more of Wayne Gretzky's games when he was traded to L.A. was fun, too."
Zucker isn't letting trade rumors distract from the importance of his second Clancy nomination, the award last season going to Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Hopefully we win this year," he said. "That would be great. But in the end, it's about creating the awareness, letting everybody know that what we're doing is all for Tucker and his legacy, keeping that alive, making sure we're that building that program at the hospital for kids.
"I want to make sure that I'm not just a good hockey player. I want to make sure I'm a good person. That's for my kids, my family … be a great husband. Those are the things that kids are going to look up to. I want to make sure that I'm being a positive influence on them in any way, whether it's minute or a bigger deal. Hockey is kind of the secondary part of that."