Tim Breslin’s legacy lives on in the hearts of his family, the entire Chicago Wolves organization and its fans.
Nothing demonstrated that better than the ceremony held prior to Sunday’s game at Allstate Arena announcing defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald as the winner of the 2023 Tim Breslin Unsung Hero Award. The honor celebrates the Wolves player who best exemplifies the late Breslin’s on-ice spirit, team-first attitude and level of community involvement.
During the on-ice ceremony, host Wayne Messmer described the many traits Fitzgerald shares with Breslin, who passed away on Feb. 9, 2005, due to complications from appendiceal cancer. The Addison, Ill., native and Driscoll Catholic High School graduate contributed 37 goals and 82 assists in five seasons with the Wolves and played a major role on the franchise’s first championship team in 1998.
After Fitzgerald accepted the award among cheers from the crowd, Wolves teammates joined him and each shook hands or shared a hug with Breslin’s family, including his wife, Jami.
“It means a lot to us to have a way to remember him in this way and to honor Tim,” Jami Breslin said. “The fact the Wolves allow us to do that and give us a day to just celebrate him and see videos of him and have us come together with our family is awesome.”
Fitzgerald, a 26-year-old defenseman from Boston, has been an integral part of the Wolves blue line for three seasons, including a standout performance during the run to the 2022 Calder Cup championship.
This season, Fitzgerald worked diligently to recover from shoulder surgery – all while keeping a positive attitude that rubbed off on his Wolves teammates – to rejoin the lineup in mid-January and once again become a steadying force on the back end.
“This means a lot to me,” Fitzgerald said of the award. “I like to take pride in what I do and I’ll do anything I can to help the team. You see (Breslin’s) picture around this rink and you hear about him so I’m definitely honored.”
While occasionally chipping in offensively, Fitzgerald prides himself on doing whatever it takes to keep the puck out of his own net, whether it’s sacrificing his body to block shots, deftly moving the puck out of the Wolves end or spearheading a penalty kill that leads the American Hockey League.
“It’s not the glamorous stuff for sure—it’s just trying to get the job done,” Fitzgerald said. “You show up every day with your lunch pail and shovel and be ready to go.”
Fitzgerald displays that same passion and work ethic when he participates in Wolves charitable initiatives, something in which Breslin also took great pride.
“Tim was super-humble with a great work ethic and got really involved in the organization’s reading programs and other service-related activities that I think helped him become more known in the community,” Jami Breslin said. “He was just literally 100 percent a team guy—he was all about it. He was loyal and a homegrown, Chicago-based guy and all of those things really matter to an organization like this.”
Wolves fans determined the 2023 Breslin Award winner as they voted at ChicagoWolves.com for the four candidates nominated by the organization’s hockey management staff: Fitzgerald, defenseman William Lagesson and forwards Nathan Sucese and Josh Melnick.
Previous winners of the distinguished Tim Breslin Unsung Hero Award include teammate Max Lajoie as well as Jake Bischoff (2020), Zac Leslie (2019), T.J. Tynan (2018), Bryce Gervais (2017), Andre Benoit (2016), Brent Regner (2014, 2015), Bill Sweatt (2013), Mark Matheson (2012), Jaime Sifers (2011), Matt Anderson (2010), Steve Martins (2009), Brian Sipotz (2008), Brian Fahey (2007), Kevin Doell (2006) and Tim Wedderburn (2005).
In addition to honoring Fitzgerald, the Wolves announced the winner of the Tim Breslin Memorial Scholarship, given to an area high school student to help defray college tuition.
This year’s winner is Georgia Trakas, a senior from Hersey High School who is a 2022 Illinois State Scholar, a member of the National Honor Society, a certified nursing assistant and a tireless volunteer in her community.
“We look at kids who apply for that scholarship in a way that is reflective of who Tim was and how he lived and what he was about,” Jami Breslin said. “It really allows us to keep his legacy alive.”