Mullin’s impact felt on and off ice
St. Anselm star fights paralysis through foundation
For Tucker Mullin, a junior forward at St. Anselm, the game against rival Southern New Hampshire was a great way to head into the holiday break. The native of Andover, Mass., assisted on the Hawks' third goal in a 7-1 rout of the PenMen, sending them into the break on a two-game winning streak in which they defeated Northeast-10 rivals Assumption and Southern N.H. by a combined score of 18-2.
"Anytime we play those teams, it's something that we want to take upon ourselves to make sure we play our game," Mullin said. "We just try to focus on what we have to do, we don't worry about who we're playing at that point."
Naturally, when you won't play again until a meeting with Northeast-10 foe Franklin Pierce on January 4, it doesn't hurt to go into the layoff on the north side of .500, as the Hawks are 4-3-1 after two wins in seven days.
"We appreciate where we are," Mullin said. "We look at the games, we've played eight games, and of the three losses, we can look back at them and see that two of them should have been ours. We're going to try not to let those games slip away from us in the second half."
It also stands to bolster the Hawks' momentum for a "three-peat" as champions of the Northeast-10, which is the only championship they can play for as a NCAA Division II team playing a schedule comprised largely of Division III opponents in the absence of a D-II option. It's not an option that everyone would choose, but there's enough for Mullin at St. Anselm that he doesn't miss the opportunity afforded by a national tournament.
"I did have a lot of options, which was nice," Mullin said. "The assistant coach, Mike Curtis, was great. His first class was mine, and I had a real connection with him. He went here. He was in my shoes; he played for the same junior team. We just had a lot to compare with each other, and I liked that he was so passionate about the school that he went to that he came back to coach here. It's really worked out to be one of my best choices."
Of course, Tucker Mullin does quite fine without a spotlight, generally speaking.
In addition to majoring in business at St. Anselm and playing forward for the Hawks, Mullin is the co-founder of the Thomas E. Smith Fight to Cure Paralysis Foundation, a 501c(3) non-profit organization "committed to designing and implementing the necessary strategies for the benefit of all injured persons, including the strategies that result from creativity and willingness to take risks." The foundation's namesake, Thomas Smith, is a former prep-school rival of Mullin's who later became a teammate at the junior-A level. Unfortunately, Smith's hockey career was derailed by two separate spinal cord injuries some 16 months apart, but following the second injury, Smith embraced a new mission in life, and sought Mullin's help in making his vision a reality.
"His first injury was more focused on him getting back and playing hockey again," Mullin said. "After the second one, it was kind of like, 'hold up, I think there's meant to be something a little bit more.' We took what he was going through, and I already had a background in fundraising and doing things in the community, so I was able to get some direction on how to start a foundation. It was definitely a joint effort from the start."
Smith is the face of the Foundation, making regular public speaking appearances to draw attention to the cause, while Mullin uses his fundraising experience - which came from raising money in high school in memory of a family friend who passed away due to ALS -- to coordinate the foundation's activities behind the scenes. A special license plate is available in Massachusetts to support the Foundation, the Foundation has raised money through golf tournaments, and last month, the Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to former Merrimack player Chic Kelly, who was injured in 1988 while playing for the Warriors.
And, while Mullin is happy to work behind the scenes, he has received some recognition of his own, as he was named a finalist this past spring for the 2011 Hockey Humanitarian Award (which wound up going to Boston College's Brooks Dyroff, a former teammate of Mullin's at Phillips Andover Academy).
"That's been huge," Mullin said. "That was a testament to what I do behind the scenes, and I appreciate that, especially for the Foundation, because it helped us gain some publicity. It's humbling to be recognized for that."
The foundation has received another boost from the hockey community this season, as the Division I men's and women's teams at Brown (home to another former Andover teammate, senior forward Bobby Farnham) have selected the Thomas E. Smith Foundation as their charity for the "Goals for Good" program, a league-wide initiative in ECAC Hockey to raise money for various charities.
"It's been awesome," Mullin said. "I'm glad more people are starting to find out about that. We certainly appreciate that, and we've seen the benefits of it. Putting Brown with Goals for Good was another outlet for us to spread our message."
School, hockey and a non-profit foundation may seem like a lot to manage, but the truth is that for Tucker Mullin, it all goes hand in hand.
"Obviously, it's a huge commitment," Mullin said. "Working with the foundation goes pretty hand-in-hand with my lifestyle. It's busy, but I like it that way. Our foundation was established because of two injuries that came from playing hockey, and I think that the support we get from that same community helps us in everything we do, and that helps me continue to play, and play for a cause."