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Riley Fiddler-Schultz realized as a tyke that a high-profile puck-chaser could have a significant impact on the lives of others.
In his two seasons so far with the Calgary Hitmen, he’s proven it.
“I grew up with an uncle (Vernon Fiddler) who played in the NHL,” Fiddler-Schultz said. “Even for me, whenever I would go visit him and be around the dressing room and all the players, those were really amazing experiences and something that I’ll cherish forever. I just want to be able to give some kids that same type of feeling.
“It’s just understanding how much those kids look up to people in my position and wanting to do whatever I can to use my position for good and to help out my community.”
He certainly is, and it’s not going unnoticed.
Fiddler-Schultz was saluted Wednesday as the Eastern Conference nominee for the Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy as the Western Hockey League’s Humanitarian of the Year.
Among his many community contributions, the 17-year-old centre from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., launched the Fidds Friends program this season, playing host once a month to a group of youngsters from the Boys & Girls Club of Calgary.
A grand total of 60 participants received game tickets, concession vouchers and then would stick around to meet Fiddler-Schultz after the final buzzer.
“There’s a story of a little boy who it really made a difference for him, and those are the kinds of things that you love to hear, that it’s not just another meet-and-greet and you’re actually making a difference in the kids’ lives,” Fiddler-Schultz said. “The story was one of the instructors or leaders there at the Boys & Girls Club, there was one child that was kind of aggressive and kind of hostile towards her. And then after he came to one of the games and met me, he did a full 180 and he was very respectful and he was always asking her how she was doing. It just really changed his whole demeanour, which really made me feel really good about what I was doing.
“For sure, that fuels me a bit extra to keep striving to do those things.”
Fiddler-Schultz also made monthly visits to call bingo at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, volunteered with HEROSHockey — a program that uses the sport to teach life-skills and to empower at-risk youth — and participated in the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Talk Today campaign.
Just before Remembrance Day, he took it upon himself to collect donations for the Veterans Food Bank of Calgary, parking his father’s truck outside a grocery store and, along with defenceman Luke Prokop, filling that Ford with grub.
“I think one of the most impressive things is that those initiatives are really driven by Riley,” said Hitmen head coach Steve Hamilton. “It’s not like those were organized by the team and he just attached his name to it. Those were initiatives that Riley approached the team about. He’s very community-minded. He comes from a great family that understands the value and the importance of giving back, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.
“When you talk about building your culture and the kind of people that you want to have involved … There’s no better example than Riley Fiddler-Schultz.”
With the remainder of the WHL season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fiddler-Schultz was hanging out at home in Fort Saskatchewan when he received word Wednesday of the nomination. He was also named the winner of the Hitmen Humanitarian Award.
His parents, Evan and Bobbi-Jo, were thrilled.
His phone was buzzing with congratulatory texts from teammates.
You can bet his uncle Vernon, a WHL grad who played parts of 14 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils, will be awfully proud, too.
Fiddler-Schultz, who notched nine goals and 10 assists in 44 games this winter, is already planning to continue his Fidds Friends program in the 2020-21 campaign.
“It was a really exciting moment, for me as well as my parents, to be recognized for my work,” Fiddler-Schultz said of Wednesday’s news. “It’s not why I do it, but it’s nice to know that people are seeing what’s being done in the community.”
ICE CHIPS : NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings for the 2020 NHL Draft, with two Hitmen players making the grade — Prokop is listed No. 130 among North American skaters, while Brayden Peters is No. 30 among draft-eligible goaltenders on this side of the Atlantic.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020