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Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award

19 – Forever in our heart

Dan Snyder (February 23, 1978 – October 5, 2003) was signed by the Atlanta Thrashers as a free agent in 1999. During his time in the minor leagues, he was a member of the International Hockey League champion Orlando Solar Bears in 2000-01 and the American Hockey League champion Chicago Wolves in 2001-02. Called up to the National Hockey League, he contributed 10 goals and four assists in 36 games with the Thrashers in 2002-03.

On September 29, 2003, Snyder was critically injured after the Ferrari 360 Modena driven by his teammate, Dany Heatley, struck a wall along Atlanta’s Lenox Road. Both players were ejected from the car, which was split in half by the force of the impact. Snyder suffered a fractured skull and internal brain injuries due to the rapid acceleration / deceleration incident. He lapsed into a coma following emergency surgery, and died six days later on October 5.

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The Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award is given to the Chicago Wolves player who demonstrates the most outstanding dedication to Chicago-area community service each year.

Snyder was a dedicated member of the Chicago Wolves organization off the ice, making numerous appearances in the community and endearing himself to many of the fans who watched him on the ice and met him outside the arena.  During off-days, Snyder made frequent appearances at local libraries to talk to kids about reading through the Wolves “Read to Succeed” program.  He also visited hospitals and appeared at other community events.  Snyder set an example to be followed by future members of the team.

Snyder was just as dedicated on the ice, serving as team captain of his junior team and excelling through hard work as his career progressed.  He made his NHL debut with the Atlanta Thrashers on April 3, 2001, against the Ottawa Senators before tallying two game-winning goals in the Turner Cup Finals for the Orlando Solar Bears, helping them to a 4-games-to-1 victory over the Chicago Wolves. As a member of the Wolves in 2001-02, Snyder continued to score at crucial times, tying an all-time AHL playoff record with five game-winning goals.  With Snyder’s help, the Wolves took home their first Calder Cup championship.

The Wolves keep Snyder’s memory alive in various ways.  A banner bearing his name hangs permanently from the rafters of the Allstate Arena, while the Wolves continue to raise money for charities associated with him.

Franco Earns Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award

Dominic Franco has a simple reason for being so committed to helping others via Wolves charitable initiatives.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Franco said.

For his efforts in the community, Franco has earned the 2024 Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award.

Each season, a Wolves player receives the award in memory of Snyder, who passed away Oct. 5, 2003, at the age of 25 after suffering head injuries in a car accident. During his two seasons with the Wolves, Snyder set the standard for community service with his tireless commitment to Chicago-area people and charities. On the ice, Snyder scored five game-winning goals during the postseason to help the Wolves capture the 2002 Calder Cup championship.

Franco called receiving the award, “an unbelievable honor.”

“On every team, guys do amazing things in this league to help out families by reaching out to the community—that’s what makes our league and sport so special,” he continued. “It’s an honor for me, especially here in Chicago. I’ve met a lot of amazing people and I’m glad to say I’ve been able to help a lot of people.”

The 28-year-old has done so by participating in a myriad of Wolves charitable initiatives. At the forefront is Franco’s “Friends of Franco,” a space for Military Families to apply for free tickets to a Wolves game and a postgame meet-and-greet with Franco.

The cause is a special one for Franco, a Class of 2020 graduate of West Point who is currently enlisted in the Ready Reserve.

Throughout the season, Franco has dedicated time after Wolves games to interact with Military Families, going beyond quick photo and autograph opportunities to spend extended quality time with the families to share his experiences in the military as well as hear from them about their own.

“It’s just amazing how far a good gesture can go and how easy it is to make a family’s night,” Franco said. “It’s truly special to see a sparkle in a kid’s eyes who came to a game and I’m happy to be a part of that.”

Franco said his time in the army made him appreciate the need to help others.

“In the military in order to be successful, you have to be able to work with people who you don’t know and may not be very similar to,” Franco said. “Just being able to connect with people is definitely something I learned and kind of grew on at West Point and I’ve tried to hold onto that as I’ve moved into professional hockey.”

Franco’s community involvement doesn’t end with “Friends of Franco.”

The Scituate, RI, native participates in the Wolves’ “Score For Charity” initiative to help raise money for Girls In the Game, an organization that strives to help every girl find her voice, discover her strength and build confidence through sports, health and leadership programs.

Franco also participated in the Wolves’ “Brews and Bites” fundraiser by interacting with fans to help raise money for Chicago Wolves Charities.

Franco joined a stellar list of former Wolves Man of the Year Award honorees that includes Max Lajoie (2023), Oscar Dansk (2020), Tyler Wong (2019), Scooter Vaughan (2018), Brett Sterling (2010, 2017), Pat Cannone (2016), Shane Harper (2015), Michael Davies (2013, 2014), Darren Haydar (2012), Spencer Machacek (2011), Jordan Lavallee (2009), Nathan Oystrick (2008), Brian Sipotz (2007), Karl Stewart (2005, 2006) and Kurtis Foster (2004).

“I’m thankful to get the award but there are lot of guys here who do a lot of incredible things for the community,” Franco said. “It’s definitely a team effort here between the staff, coaches and players. It’s no surprise the Wolves have been so successful just because of how close and how important the organization is to this area. It’s more than just a hockey team and it’s pretty evident in the community outreach.”

Previous Winners