Travis Gawryletz has put together an impressive season in the American Hockey League.
But while most people can track the Trail native’s progress through statistics and standings, Gawryletz has done much more than can be detailed in numbers.
His efforts off the ice have also earned the 25-year-old some much-deserved acclaim.
Last week the Lake Erie Monsters announced that Gawryletz has been named the team’s winner of the AHL Man of the Year award for his efforts and contributions to the Cleveland community.
Gawryletz said in a telephone interview Monday that the recognition came out of the blue and shows the team cares about its role in the community.
“It’s nice to be noticed as being that guy on your team for things like that. I’m pretty excited about it.”
The role of any professional team in its home community is a crucial one to help establish a strong fan base and give back to the people that support the franchise.
Gawryletz explained the Monsters put up a sign-up sheet for certain events for players to attend from school and hospital visits to Halloween or Thanksgiving events.
“We definitely have the time on our hands to go and do it,” he said. “And I have a pretty good time too.”
Of course interacting with young people battling health or financial hurdles often puts the pressures of professional sports in to perspective.
“The first one we did this season where we teamed up with the (Cleveland) Cavaliers basketball team. It was a fundraiser for kids fighting cancer,” he recalled.
“They put on a huge fashion show. We walked out and did the catwalk thing, which was pretty fun.”
Gawryletz said each athlete returned to the runway with a child who had successfully battled cancer.
He described that the player and child walked out with a poster showing photos of the child fighting through various stages of cancer.
“I was with a little girl, who was five or six, and when we walked out there the ovation she got was something pretty spectacular.”
It’s those type of moments that impact athletes the most.
Gawryletz hasn’t had much to get excited about lately. He re-injured a possible sports hernia last week and missed the Monsters’ weekend games. It may also require off-season surgery.
“I took a hit in last Wednesday’s game and something gave out. I left the game halfway through and I haven’t skated since.
“I really want to be back for playoffs but I don’t know how things will progress. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I can get in there.”
Gawryletz becomes the third Trail Smoke Eater grad to earn that award in the AHL.
Steve McCarthy was the Norfolk Admirals Man of the Year in 2002 the same season Travis Roche was the Houston Aeros Man of the Year.
Roche went on to be named the league-wide winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award presented to the AHL’s overall Man of the Year.
“Those are good footsteps I’m following in,” said Gawryletz.
The winner of the 2010-11 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League in the coming weeks.