NATHAN PAETSCH, right, has been named the 2018-19 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award winner for his community service. He is the Rochester Americans nominee for the AHL’s Yanic Dupre Memorial Award.
Photo courtesy of Micheline V/Rochester Americans
ROCHESTER – Rochester Americans veteran defenseman Nathan Paetsch has been named the team’s the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award winner for his “outstanding contributions to the Rochester community during the 2018-19 season.”
After winning the same award last season in his return to Rochester following a five-year stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Paetsch continued to deepen his footprint in the local community despite playing in 10 games during the 2018-19 campaign.
Prior to the start of the season, his sixth in Rochester and second since the 2010-11 campaign, Paetsch assisted with volunteers and members of the Seneca Park Zoo to remove nearly 10 pounds of water chestnuts from the Genesee River. Weeks later during training camp, Paetsch accompanied several Amerks players, coaches and office staff by delivering season tickets to various local businesses and corporate partners of the organization.
While being a healthy scratch for the first three months of the season, Paetsch, a former four-time winner of the Amerks’ McCulloch Trophy for “commitment and dedication to the Rochester community”, made the most of his time, as he would regularly make appearances to meet with fans and other youth organizations either during or following games as part of the Captain’s Club program.
A few weeks later, Paetsch kicked off the 14th season of the popular Amerks Reading Power Play Program at the Fairport Public Library. The Amerks Reading Power Play program involves players stopping by local libraries, reading to kids, giving a hockey demonstration which allows kids to learn about the game while showing the importance of reading.
As the holidays approached, Paetsch was among a full-team outing as all 25 Amerks players, in addition to head coach Chris Taylor, visited two Rochester-area hospitals in the same day. Paetsch led a contingent of players to Golisano Children’s Hospital – the very place his son was born eight years before – to share smiles and spread Christmas spirit. While there, he played musical bingo, made room visits and also surprised the children, along with their families, with an assortment of Amerks Teddy Bears and Christmas gifts to help make their holidays a little more cheerful.
Later that evening, Paetsch, accompanied by his wife, Jaclyn, and their two children, Mira and Kellen, joined several other Amerks players and their significant others at the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The group prepared and served a dinner to nearly 40 families. On the menu was a Rochester staple: garbage plates.
As the season progressed, Paetsch continued his service off the ice as he made regular appearances as part of the Fidelis Care Dental Health Awareness Program. A new program, it featured an Amerks players at local schools in support of reading and proper dental hygiene. The visiting player provided the children with a hockey demonstration, while discussing the importance of dental health and reading a book.
In January, the Amerks partnered with the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester to host “Defend the Ice Month” for the second consecutive season. The month-long campaign focused on efforts to help raise awareness for polar bear and ice conservation primarily in the Arctic regions. The Amerks wore special polar bear-themed jerseys along with matching socks in support of polar bear awareness. At the start of the month, Paetsch, along with goaltender Adam Wilcox, volunteered to appear in video public service announcements and made regular visits to the zoo in support of the cause.
The Amerks once again partnered with New York’s 529 College Savings Plan for the return of the Amerks Jr. Reporter Program and Paetsch helped provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to local kids who won the chance to interview him and get a tour of the Amerks locker room afterward, as well as watch an Amerks practice.
In February, Paetsch participated in the annual ball hockey game against a group of athletes from Lifetime Assistance, a local organization dedicated to fostering independence, dignity and respect for individuals with disabilities.
As the regular season is nearing its end, Paetsch alongside fellow assistant captain Kyle Criscuolo, spent an afternoon delivering lunch to Rochester’s elderly community as part of the Meals on Wheels program, an affiliate of the UR Medicine Home Care which today serves more than 220,000 meals annually. A week after assisting with the Meals on Wheels, the veteran accompanied a handful of players to Wesley Gardens, a non-profit nursing home dedicated to long-term residential care, short-term rehabilitation, respite and hospice care, for a special meet-and-greet and a question and answer session.
One of Paetsch’s most admirable attributes is his willingness to develop personal relationships with the fans. Following games which came with a “jersey off the back” presentation to the winning fans, Paetsch always took it upon himself to greet each fan with a smile and thank them for being such a loyal supporter of the team.
“In addition to being a true Amerks ambassador both on and off the ice, these are just a few of the outstanding things Paetsch is consistently doing to make a difference in the Greater Rochester Community all while serving as one of the Amerks assistant captains,” a team press release stated.
Paetsch is one of 31 finalists for the AHL’s 2018-19 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award. The award honors the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after a former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the AHL at a later date.