The United States Hockey League announced today that Bloomington Thunder goaltender Logan Halladay and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders defenseman Riese Zmolek have been named the 2017 recipients of the USHL Curt Hammer Award.
The Curt Hammer Award has been presented annually since the 1988-89 season and recognizes the USHL player who distinguishes himself both on and off the ice by demonstrating outstanding performance skills, leadership, pride and determination. The award is given in memory of the later Curt Hammer who served as President of the Des Moines Buccaneers for three seasons (1984-87) and also held the role of secretary for the USHL.
Halladay is the second Thunder recipient of the award, joining Matt Mendelson (2014-15).
Halladay has been part of the Bloomington Thunder since the team’s inception in 2014. In three years, he has become an integral part of the organization and the Bloomington community through his work off the ice and because of his humble, selfless attitude. But in his final season with the Thunder, Logan took that to another level in orchestrating a campaign to give back to more than just one community in Central Illinois.
Before the season began, Logan chose to dedicate the artwork on his goaltender’s mask to the Global Down Syndrome and Special Olympics, with the logos of each organization emblazoned on his helmet. Halladay made the mask part of an incentive to raise money for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Through a season-long fundraiser, which was developed entirely by Halladay, he raised $6,120 for Global to benefit research and awareness efforts for Down syndrome.
Logan had volunteered to help those with Down syndrome prior to his junior hockey career, but his connection to Down syndrome became personal in his first year away from home. He lived with a family that had a daughter with Down syndrome and immediately developed a close relationship with the daughter, Megan. Logan has continued to maintain his close relationship with Megan and continues to serve as a role model in her life.
“Hockey is just something I do, it’s not who I am,” said Logan Halladay earlier this season on the U-Show, a weekly podcast covering USHL news. “I’ve been able to use this platform to bless other people, which is what I think is the most important part of me being in Bloomington. It’s more important than anything I’ve done hockey-wise.”
“This is definitely something I’m going to carry on to college or pro. I’m already thinking about ideas for other helmets and other things. This isn’t a one-time thing. This is something I’m going to continue to do to help other people.”
Hlladay displayed the benevolence and maturity to carry out the wide-reaching campaign, including the website, social media promotion, in-arena contests and more. Coupled with three years of work as a volunteer at the Wish Bone Canine Rescue Shelter, walking dogs 2-3 times per week, Logan has maximized his platform as a hockey player to give back to those around him.
“Logan is a great asset to our organization. He is one of our few male volunteers and he loves to come in and socialize with our larger dogs, who often get the least amount of attention,” said Andrea Jones from the Wish Bone Canine Rescue. “He takes some of them out on play dates, so they can burn off energy. He takes dogs on walks and sometimes, Logan just sits in their cage and comforts them. When there are dogs that tend to be fearful of men, I often ask Logan if he would be willing to spend time with them so he can help them learn to trust again.”
In addition to his time spent with the Special Olympics and Wish Bone Canine Rescue, Halladay was also an active member in team community service. Halladay spent time at the McLean County Nursing home deliver Christmas cards and talking with residents, sorted donations at the Home Sweet Home Ministries, was a leader in the Recess Buddies Program at Pepper Ridge Elementary School, was an active participant reading to students at Parkside Elementary, taught an anti-bullying and healthy habits program at Brigham Early Learning Center, and was an active member in the local youth hockey community teaching goaltender events at practices and events.
Halladay played for the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes and Chicago Young Americans prior to spending a season with the Janesville Jets (NAHL). The Cary, NC native is committed to Merrimack College. Halladay has improved his goaltending stats in each of the past three seasons while with Bloomington, battling through ups and downs throughout his USHL career.
Zmolek is the first RoughRiders recipient of the award.
Zmolek is in his second year with Cedar Rapids, and was named captain by his teammates earlier this season. In two years Zmolek has become heavily involved in the community of Cedar Rapids, including leading the team in volunteering this season. His dedication to community efforts went beyond himself, as he spent much of the season encouraging teammates and coordinating schedules for other RoughRiders to make appearances alongside him.
Weekly, Zmolek volunteered as a mentor at Viola Gibson Elementary school where he dedicated his time to be a role model for youth in the community. Zmolek also volunteered time at Rescue Day Hab assisting adults with special needs, assisted in feeding veterans on Thursdays with the local Freedom Foundation and delivered food to seniors with Meals on Wheels.
Earlier this year, the community of Cedar Rapids was hit with record rainfall that resulted in a flood that required nearly 10 miles of barriers and upward of 400,000 sandbags, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Zmolek was at the forefront of the RoughRiders organization in helping organize flood clean up and team activities to help other volunteers. He and his teammates delivered cookies to local fire and police stations as a thank you for their service to the community.
“As the community service coordinator the past two years there is not one kid that volunteered more than Riese,” said RoughRiders Community Service Coordinator Tammy Carlson. “He was front and center for the Teddy Bear deliver to the Children’s Hospital to help bright the day of sick children, as well as spent time at domestic abuse centers with children that have been abused or witnessed abuse.”
“The team does six community service items per week and he scheduled every appearance. In fact, I would tell him to let others help too. He not only participated in the community service events for the past two years but was the first captain that orchestrated the most community service the team has ever done.”
Zmolek is a product of Rochester Century High School and is a native of Rochester, MN. This is his second season in the USHL after a brief stint with the Austin Bruins (NAHL). Zmolek recorded career-highs this season despite a difficult season on the ice for Cedar Rapids.
“Riese constantly sets the bar for his teammates in work ethic, compete level in games, practices and team workouts,” said Cedar Rapids head coach Mark Carlson. “You would be hard pressed to find a better leader on or off the ice. Riese has been second to none leading his team at the arena and in the community. He has put our community and his teammates ahead of himself while helping others throughout the season. He has truly embodied what it means to lead and to give back.”
Curt Hammer, a dedicated volunteer and supporter of hockey in the Des Moines community until succumbing to cancer in 1987, was one of the founders of Hart-Hammer, Inc., a commercial heating and air condition ventilation equipment sales firm. The annual USHL award was established to honor his commitment to the League and perseverance he displayed in continuing his work through hockey while battling illness.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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