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April 2, 2012

Eric Neilson Named Norfolk Admirals 2011-12 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man Of The Year


NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk Admirals are proud to announce that Eric Neilson has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Hampton Roads community during the 2011-12 season.

Since his arrival in Norfolk this season, Neilson has been an asset to the Admirals, not only because of his hockey skills but because of his fantastic ability to make friends everywhere he goes. Whether it is with children or adults, he leaves a positive impression of both himself and the organization. From the beginning, he has sought out the Community Relations Department to get involved as much as possible.

He has visited children at the local hospital, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. When Neilson talks to each child, even if only for a few minutes, they are the only person in the world that matters. When visiting St Mary’s Home for Disabled Children he jumped right in, grabbed a child and started to play soccer with him. The child he was paired with did not have the ability to speak; yet they formed an instant connection and spent the entire visit laughing and smiling.

Neilson likes to step outside of his comfort zone. This year, he spoke in front of a large crowd about the consequences of drugs at some local DARE graduations on his days off.

Neilson’s community efforts are not limited to children. After an Admirals season ticket holder got into a motorcycle accident, Neilson went and visited him at the hospital to let him know he was appreciated, even if he couldn’t be at the arena cheering the team on.

Neilson has participated with Habitat for Humanity, where the entire Admirals organization helped build a home for a family in need. When the rest of the team left at 2:00 p.m., Neilson stayed for an extra two hours to finish up everything he could until the Habitat for Humanity staff had to tell him they were ready to leave. No one was around; there were no cameras present or coaches to impress. Neilson stayed because he wanted to.

Earlier this month, Neilson again went above and beyond during the Admirals' MDA Jersey Auction, presented by PAPCO. After auctioning his jersey off, Neilson became a co-emcee of the event, pumping up the crowd and encouraging fans to support the local Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Neilson is a great role model and is infectious to be around. It is an honor to see him recognized as Norfolk’s IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. This is Neilson's fourth such award in the last four years: Peoria (2008-09), Hamilton (2009-10), San Antonio (2010-11), Norfolk (2011-12).

Neilson is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2011-12 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the 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 American Hockey League in the coming weeks.


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