SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League has announced that Mitch Fritz of the Springfield Falcons has been selected the winner of the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award as the 2005-06 American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year. The award is presented annually to an AHL player for his outstanding contributions to his local community and charitable organizations.
Fritz, 25, has become a spokesman and ambassador for the Falcons franchise through his tireless community service. His willingness to welcome every opportunity to interact with fans of all ages has not only raised money and awareness for charitable causes, but has also raised the spirits of those he reaches with his efforts. Already one of the most recognizable members of the Falcons thanks to his 6-foot-8, 258-pound frame, Fritz has embraced his status as a fan favorite, signing autographs and participating in outreach programs such as Adopt a Falcon, for which he visits a local elementary school twice a month to teach students lessons in math, geography and physical education. Fritz was the focus of a poster giveaway and hosted a party to raise funds for Brightside for Families and Children, a non-profit support center offering residential treatment and special education for children and their families.
Fritz represented the Falcons organization at the Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon that helped raise a record $175,000 for the Baystate Children’s Hospital, and recruited teammates to join him in delivering toys to patients there. He also assisted in the collection and fundraising efforts of the American Red Cross, serving as spokesman for the team’s teddy bear toss and blood drive events. Fritz’s participation in the Falcons’ annual golf tournament helped raise over $30,000 for the Springfield Shriners Hospital and the Springfield Sliders sled hockey team, for which he later participated in a scrimmage and hosted a pizza party.
Further community efforts have included mentoring foster children through the social services department in Holyoke, Mass.; participation in a fashion show for breast cancer awareness; a celebrity bartending event to raise money for Springfield Falcons Charities; and delivering food donations to Palmer Food Share to benefit more than 1,200 families in western Massachusetts.
A native of Osoyoos, B.C., Fritz is in his second season in Springfield and sixth in the American Hockey League.
The AHL’s annual Man of the Year award is named after the late Yanick Dupré, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 24 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. A second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991, Dupré played four seasons in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, and participated in the 1995 AHL All-Star Game. Previous winners of the award include John Jakopin (1998), Brent Thompson (1999), Mike Minard (2000, 2001), Travis Roche (2002), Jimmy Roy (2003), Kurtis Foster (2004) and Duncan Milroy (2005).
Fritz will be presented with the Yanick Dupré Award and a check for $500 on Saturday evening, in an on-ice presentation prior to the Falcons’ game against Portland at the MassMutual Center.