Jan. 19, 2017
By Dan Colleran
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Junior forward Anders Bjork has been named one of 15 nominees for the 2017 Hockey Humanitarian award, which is presented annually to college hockey’s finest citizen.
Heading into this weekend’s series with New Hampshire, Bjork has 35 points on 15 goals and 20 assists in 23 games this season. His 35 points rank third in Hockey East and are tied for fifth in the country, while his five game-winning goals are tied for the NCAA lead. He is averaging 1.52 points-per game, which ranks third in Hockey East and eighth in the country.
But Bjork’s efforts off the ice have made even more of a difference, especially just a few blocks south of campus at the Perley Fine Arts Academy in South Bend.
Anders has helped mediate disagreements between the kids, taught them how to let things roll off their backs and not be so quick to judge. He will draw with the girls in the room (I have 16 this year) and sit and play Legos with all the boys (only seven this year). He will answer any question they have, he lets them wear his hat, he plays games with them at recess–and he has even gotten in trouble right along with the rest of the class for not paying attention to the gym teacher (you might not want to mention this either, I don’t think my principal knows about this).This is only a fraction of the “things” Anders has done with and for these children. The most important thing this man has done for these children is to keep coming back. I have taught in inner-city schools for 10 years. I have had hundreds of people come through my classroom doors–volunteers, students doing field experiences and a few student teachers. They were all wonderful (some more than others).But these children are used to people coming in and out of their lives. Volunteers stay for three or four months, coming once a week, and then their time is over. Field experience students usually come for 30 hours, and then they are off to another assignment. But Anders keeps coming back. It doesn’t matter if he only has 30 minutes to spare, he always comes back.These children have experienced levels of disappointment and heartbreak that many of us will never have to live through. I can tell you stories of these children being removed from their homes, watching their parents getting shot right in front of them, and on and on. But Anders has been one of the most constant, loving figures in their young lives. He gives them what some of their own parents cannot–his time and love. If there is a child talking with Anders and Anders needs to get to hockey practice, he will wait until that child is finished with his/her story before he leaves. I sometimes cringe at the thought of Anders trying to explain to Coach Jackson that he was late because one of his “kids” had to finish an important story.
A fifth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins, Bjork has posted 11 multi-point games this season, including four-point games against Arizona State (Oct. 8) and UConn (Oct. 28). He has been held without a point in just five of Notre Dame’s 23 games this season (one of which was the 0-0, two-period tie at Northeastern on Nov. 13) and the Irish are 13-4-1 on the season when he notches at least one point.
A native of Mequon, Wisconsin, Bjork has 92 career points on 34 goals and 58 assists. His father, Kirt, was an All-American at Notre Dame following the 1982-83 campaign. Kirt posted 161 points (76 goals and 85 assists) in 141 career games for the Irish.
Each year, the Hockey Humanitarian Foundation recognizes a student-athletes who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team, but also to the community-at-large through leadership in volunteerism. The nominees hail from all across college hockey, including men’s and women’s players from Division I, II and III.
The 2017 Hockey Humanitarian finalists will be announced in February and then the 2017 Hockey Humanitarian Award recipient will be recognized in a ceremony on Friday, April 7, at the Frozen Four, which is being hosted by the University of Notre Dame and the Chicago Sports Commission at the United Center in Chicago.
— ND —
Dan Colleran, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been a part of Fighting Irish Media since August 2015 and coordinates all media and publicity efforts surrounding the Notre Dame hockey and golf programs. A native of Walpole, Massachusetts, Colleran spent the previous three years working with the men’s hockey and soccer programs at Providence College. Colleran also spent two years as an Assistant Executive Director of Communications & Championships at the Ivy League and is a graduate of Providence College (’06 & ’08G).