Editor's Note: The King Clancy Memorial Trophy is presented annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. Each NHL Club nominates a player to be considered for this recognition, and each nominee has a unique and powerful connection to his community efforts. Today, the New York Rangers' nominee for the 2023-24 season -- Jacob Trouba -- shares his story. 

In hockey, identity can be a complicated thing.

My experience probably is no different than that of many guys around the League: When the hockey helmet comes on, you know who you have to be. It's all business. There's a certain attitude you bring when it's time to play.

Because of that, the Jacob you see on the ice is not always the nicest person.

But when the helmet comes off? Then you can go back to being yourself, with much more space to be thoughtful, sensitive, and connected to the people around you.

Since I was 15 years old, I basically was trained to divide my identity between the on-ice and off-ice versions of myself.  The split starts to feel routine after you've done it for a while.

As I got older and matured in this game, I realized those two versions of myself were growing further apart.

I wasn't sure if, or how, I'd figure out what aspects of me were allowed to exist in my hockey equipment.

But then I met Isaiah.

Through the Garden of Dreams Foundation, I had the opportunity to present Isaiah with a scholarship to attend law school. He and his family experienced unimaginable loss at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the tragic shooting in 2012 took the life of his little sister, Ana. In the years that followed, Isaiah's family continued to honor her memory with inspiring resilience.

Isaiah also happened to play and love hockey. He was a Rangers fan, but he used to live in Winnipeg and followed me back then too.

I was deeply moved by Isaiah's story. I was honored and grateful that he felt a connection to me. After I handed him the scholarship, I gave him my phone number so we could keep in touch throughout his journey, and he could invite me to his law school graduation.

All of this happened on the ice at Madison Square Garden, right after the Rangers' last regular-season home game of the 2022-23 season. I was still wearing my hockey gear.

I think it was the best I've ever felt leaving the rink.

Looking back, it probably was the first time I allowed the on-ice and off-ice versions of myself to mix. I'll always be focused and committed when I'm competing, but I don't want to forget that Jacob exists in the hockey gear and can make an impact as the guy in the hockey gear.

So I started to think about ways to make a bigger impact. And I realized there was something else I could mix with hockey: Art.

My passion for art developed three summers ago, when a friend of mine invited me to his studio to paint. What began as an outlet away from the game became a big personal interest. We talked about art history, the processes used by different artists, and the chance to figure out what kind of artist I want to be.

I came up with the idea of using myself as the brush -- striking the canvas while wearing my hockey equipment, covered in paint. It had an immediacy and physicality that felt honest to me. Literally and figuratively, I was inviting Jacob back into the hockey gear to be thoughtful and creative while still representing my love for this sport.

We turned the art into prints and began selling them, with all proceeds benefitting two amazing organizations: The Garden of Dreams Foundation, which provides life-changing access to opportunities for thousands of people like Isaiah and his family; and the Epilepsy Foundation, which promotes awareness, understanding and advocacy to support people with epilepsy. I've seen how important these resources can be through my wife, Kelly, who has epilepsy herself.

When we started selling the prints, I had three goals in mind. The first, and most important, was to make a difference. It's been a real honor to see my artwork raise more than $160,000 this season for charities that are impacting so many lives.

And the best part is, this is just the beginning. The prints are still for sale and there is more money we can raise for these two great organizations.

The second goal was to use my platform in a way that might inspire people to try new things. A lot of good can come from giving yourself room to be creative, through art or anything else that brings you joy. If my story can highlight the value of exploring new possibilities, then I'm very glad to share it.

And the third goal? Well, it goes back to determining the person I want to be. During the past year I've realized how important it is to find the overlap between my identity on the ice and off the ice, to bring those two sides of my life together and let them create the strongest version of myself. The process has required me to unlearn some of the routine that got me this far in my career. But it has empowered me to learn how much more I can do.

It's an ongoing journey, but there's one thing I know for sure: I am not the same person I was before I met Isaiah. And I'm so grateful for that.

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