GLENS FALLS -- Mathieu Tousignant knows what it’s like to be that little kid just hoping to slap five with the big-time athlete. When the Adirondack Flames center was a kid, he looked up to the local juniors team.
Tousignant remembers the day a couple of those juniors came to his practice and they even took a few players to lunch afterward, him included.
Then a few years later, his team visited the juniors team during practice. Tousignant even talked to his idol in the dressing room.
“When I was a kid and some professional athlete talked to me, I was so happy I talked about it for weeks,” Tousignant said.
Since he knows what those moments meant to him, Tousignant consciously tries to create those moments for kids now that he’s the professional athlete. He said he always tries to say yes when asked about a community appearance. That attitude earned Tousignant the title of Flames’ Man of the Year. The award is honors a player for “outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations.”
His visit to Double H Ranch, a camp for children with life-threatening illnesses, stands out for Tousignant. He’s been to hospitals and visited with children battling illnesses before, but nothing like Double H. “Seeing the kids faces, their smiles was awesome,” he said.
And he’d never tried anything like adaptive skiing. Adaptive skiing is kind of like a chair on skis, sometimes with someone on conventional skis steering behind you.
“I’ve never done something cool like that,” Tousignant said. “I think I had more fun than the kids.”
You have free articles remaining.
It helps that the 25-year-old’s inner child is never far from the surface. He’s quick to draw laughs, and to ask for a shout-out from a teammate doing an interview.
Tousignant credits his parents for instilling good values and teaching him to always give back. They were especially proud of this award.
He’s also quick to point out that he’s not the only one involved in the community. Tousignant named Ryan Culkiin, Garnet Hathaway, Emile Poirier and Bryce Van Brabant as others who have done a lot with this team. And then there’s Trevor Gillies. Every team Tousignant has been on has an older veteran presence who gets deeply involved with the community and always has time for a fan.
“When I see guys like Gillies, I always want to be like that,” he said.
Tousignant has also done a few on-ice appearances with Adirondack Youth Hockey League teams. Those visits are more about fun and less about hockey skills for him.
“I just tried to teach them to have fun on the ice and enjoy the game,” he said. “I started playing hockey because it’s fun. I told them ‘If it’s your passion that’s great. If it’s not, that’s great, you can still have fun.’ ”
Tousignant has been paired with rookies on some of these visits and said he likes feeling like he’s passing on the commitment to them.
Tousignant is now a finalist for the AHL Man of the Year, as are the finalists from each team. Two former Phantoms were nominated both for the first time. Shane Harper is Chicago’s nominee and Matthew Ford earned the honor from Oklahoma City.