DETROIT – Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t know Mary Mrdjenovic.
He’s never met the three-sport star, who is in the final semester of her senior year at Regina High School, an all-girls Catholic school in suburban Warren, Mich.
But her story struck a nerve with the Red Wings’ captain, which caused him to act.
Last month, Mrdjenovic broke her back when she lost a skate edge in practice, sending her hard into the net before crashing into the end boards. Both collisions were violent enough to fracture three vertebrae in her spine.
While he’s not met her, Zetterberg was familiar with Mary’s name. She had submitted an application as a finalist for this year’s scholarship, which Zetterberg has awarded to the state’s top high school female player in each of the past five years.
“We have our scholarship every year and thought it would be nice to give her a scholarship too,” Zetterberg said. “Obviously, with what happened to her, I think it’s for a good cause. It’s high school hockey. They’re good students and every time you have a chance to give back you should.”
Mary’s accident occurred Feb. 20, but Zetterberg wasn’t aware of it until last week, days before the banquet meant to honor the top boys and girls prep players from across the state. Mary attended the banquet, where she also received all-league and all-academic honors.
“I heard about her accident through the guy that helps me with the scholarship,” Zetterberg said. “They called me when we were in western Canada and asked if we could do anything. I think it’s a great opportunity to help her out.”
Zetterberg’s decision to award a separate $1,500 gift to Mary was made easy, because the Regina student-athlete has made helping others a priority.
Mary maintains a 4.0 grade-point average in the classroom, is a three-year member of Regina’s robotics team, and is chapter president for SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions, which is formerly Students Against Driving Drunk. She also gives her time to Gleaners Community Food Bank; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; a local nursing home; as well as working fundraisers at her parish.
“I’ve heard that she’s a fantastic kid,” Zetterberg said. “Hopefully I can meet her one day.”
Mary plans to attend Kettering University in the fall, where she will major in biochemistry and bioengineering. She also played field hockey and lacrosse at Regina.
Regina athletic director Diane Laffey said that Mary has been walking, and while her high school athletic career is done, she hopes to return to the classroom after Easter.
“She’s just a great kid, just super kid,” Laffey said. “She’s one of those kids who doesn’t go around flaunting herself around or talking about herself. She’s very, very concerned about all of her teammates and she always has been. She’s just a really good kid.”
News of Zetterberg’s generosity came as a huge surprise to the school community, Laffey said.
“I think everybody was probably shocked,” she said. “We knew that she had applied for the scholarship, but we had no idea that he was going to give it a special award.”
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