Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal.
Bentley College goalie Joe Calvi played well but lost to Western Michigan in the second game of his college career in Kalamazoo, Mich. — far, far from the Falcons’ home in Waltham, Mass.
The next morning, the freshman goaltender had a question for coach Ryan Soderquist (Stoneham, Mass.).
“It was a Sunday morning and the plane wasn’t leaving for another four hours,” Soderquist said. “He asked if it was OK to go to Mass at a church down the street.”
It’s a request Soderquist hasn’t received a whole lot in his decade of coaching.
“You’re just trying to get most of the guys on the bus in time,” Soderquist said with a laugh. “Right off the bat, since he was a freshman, Joe has marched to the beat of his own drum. He’s been able to stay grounded right through the course of college and stay committed to his roots. … He’s obviously a great kid.”
Those roots are at the core of how Calvi — these days finishing up at Bentley as a senior and to be married in a few months — came to be one of 25 hockey players in the country (male and female, covering all divisions) nominated for the 2011 Hockey Humanitarian Award. The award was created in 1996 to honor players who go above and beyond, off the ice and outside of the rink.
Former Boston University goaltender J.P. McKersie, who recovered from a serious head injury sustained in a bike accident to return to the net and also to coach, was both the inspiration for and the first recipient of the Hockey Humanitarian Award. The Hockey Humanitarian Organization’s mission statement reads, in part:
* “In an era of ever-increasing ego display, when so many of today’s athletes are sending the wrong message to our children and when success often seems measured solely by dollar signs and contract signings, it is time to call attention to individuals who embody all that is, and can be, right with sport.”
* “While team games, by definition, encompass both teamwork and the contributions of the individual to the success of the group as a whole, we want to acknowledge the accomplishments of personal character, scholarship, and the giving of oneself off the ice to the larger community as well.”
In short, cheers to the Joe Calvis of the world.
Cheers as well to the 24 other nominees, including Canisius junior forward Scott Moser and Niagara senior forward Paul Zanette, the other players cited from Atlantic Hockey.
Calvi fits Sunday school teaching and volunteer work at the Sancta Maria House, a homeless shelter for women in Boston, in with the demands of collecting a Bentley degree in information design and corporate communication and playing Division 1 college hockey.
He helped set up an after-school tutoring program for Latino children in Waltham, was in on the birth of the Bentley Chapter of Campus RENEW, a faith-sharing group focused on community involvement and spends time with Cradles to Crayons, an organization that collects new and used clothing and toys for families in need.
The discipline of hockey and its practices and games, Calvi said, plays a role in keeping his schedule moving.
“I don’t have much time for myself during school,” he said. “But it seems like I’m a lot more productive. Over the summer, I find myself procrastinating more and not doing my laundry, not doing this, not doing that. Hockey keeps me in line.”
Community outreach has long been a part of his life.
“I’ve always done it and never thought about not doing it because I’m too busy or something,” Calvi said. “It’s something you do. You give back when you can, in what little free time you have. I’ve never had trouble finding a place to help out.”
His fiancée, Jenni Beaulieu, introduced him to the Sancta Maria House.
“They don’t allow guys to be overnight volunteers, but they need them to come through during the day and work on computers or send out mail or do painting and haul furniture,” he said.
He asked the priest in the St. Charles parish a couple of blocks from his Waltham apartment how he might help, and the priest suggested he’d come across well to teenage boys so he teaches seventh- and eighth-graders.
Joe, 24, is the middle of three brothers and his mother, Patrice, taught him, Jason and Nicolas about giving back from a young age back home in New Lenox, Ill., near Joliet (outside of Chicago).
“Growing up, my mother volunteered with hospice and did a few other things, and she was always bringing me and my brothers to go visit,” he said. “She was busy, too, raising three boys and working.”
His mother recalls when Jason was a Boy Scout.
“I was the Boy Scout leader because there was nobody else to do it,” she said. “I’d take all the boys to the nursing home. I felt it was something from the heart. … If they had a ‘go to work’ day and wanted to stay home from school, I told them we were going to go clean up the vacant lot in the neighborhood. … It’s real nice to see the kids participate now. ”
A tournament racquetball player then and now, Patrice passed on a passion for sports, too.
“She jokes that she’s one of the reasons I’m athletic because she played racquetball and volleyball while she was pregnant with me,” Calvi said.
Racquetball helped him find his wife-to-be, too. He and Jenni met when he asked her to fill out a racquetball foursome when he was playing with the New England Huskies Junior (EJHL) out of Tyngsboro, Mass. They’ll be married in Hudson, N.H., in early June and the reception will be in left field at LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, the Red Sox’ Single-A team.
“We’re getting married on my birthday, and I proposed on her birthday,” Calvi said with a chuckle. “That way I’ll never forget. I’ll never get in trouble.”
As a senior, Calvi has shared time in net with junior Kyle Rank and freshman Branden Komm.
“When he’s at his best, he’s real aggressive and he’s coming out and taking away angles,” Soderquist said.
From the start, the coach said, he’s cited Calvi’s focus and preparation for a game. And for life for that matter.
“He’s a different breed,” Soderquist said. “He’s a great kid, and he’s worked extremely hard. He’s been a quiet leader for us. He’s definitely not a guy who rants and raves and yells. When you truly live your life a certain way, guys respect that and you can be a leader that way.”
Allen Lessels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org