Tommy Wingels may just be getting his NHL career underway, but the 25-year-old Evanston, Illinois native has already made an impact and a name for himself throughout the league in just his second full season with the San Jose Sharks. He has already been the Sharks’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and a nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his work with You Can Play, an organization he’s stood by since its inception.
“When the project was at its beginning there was some uncertainty how it would be taken by NHL players and the hockey community in general. Ultimately that didn’t matter. I was on board for this regardless of their response because I think it’s a very important aspect of our game and our culture that we’re trying to change,” said Wingels.
“I always tell people that I think the players have responded in the best way possible and that’s by hopping on board and helping create this safe environment. I don’t think players should get too much credit because credit shouldn’t be given for doing the right thing. In my mind this is the right thing. Guys aren’t doing something extraordinary here they’re just doing the right thing.”
Despite getting the attention that he has gotten for his work with You Can Play, Wingels is just happy that he’s helping spread the word and doing everything in his power to make a difference.
“I think that athletes are put in a special situation where you have a lot of people looking up to you and giving you opportunities and I think that being in the spotlight you can help change things and bring the spotlight to some things and you can, you know, in some sense help raise money for things,” stated the former Miami RedHawk.
“Some people like looking to athletes for guidance or as a fan of the team and I think that as athlete myself, I think we’re in a very special situation and I think every athlete should do something that’s important to them. When you get involved in a foundation or cause that means something to you, things start to work a little better.”
Wingels has found his groove in the NHL both on and off the ice and with his level of maturity he’s going to continue to grow year after year, which is a good sign for You Can Play and the Sharks organization. It seems only fitting that someone like Wingels ended up with an organization that gives back so much to the community and the fans.
“It’s unbelievable. To get out into the community and interact with those who are less fortunate or who are not given the opportunities that we are, to see their joy and happiness, the joy this time of year when we can help them out, it’s special. I’ve done a couple of events with the Sharks and to bring in families that are less privileged, to spend time with them, it’s very heartwarming and it humbles us as individuals and as players.
“Our Foundation does a lot of great things. Most recently was the Adopt a Family for Christmas. Often times we volunteer with groups or individuals, but to see families brought together and families experience that joy together and to see how happy they were, as parents or as children to be getting these presents and then getting to spend time with some of the Sharks players, I think that was pretty special to me.“
As a member of the Advisory Board for You Can Play, Wingels will continue to do what he can to help spread the word of something so close to his heart. He will do whatever it takes to make sure every athlete is given the respect they deserve, no matter what their sexual orientation is. With the difference he’s already made in such little time, it is refreshing to know that he still has plenty of years ahead of him, and there’s no doubt that he’s going to make a larger impact along the way.
For more information on You Can Play, visit http://youcanplayproject.org/