For a generation of hockey fans who watched Joe Sakic dominate for the Colorado Avalanche, No. 19 was affectionately known as ‘Super Joe.’
Count Dominic Cozzolino amongst the many young fans who were mesmerized by Super Joe’s deadly wrist shot and astonishing ability to perform in the biggest games.
The 25-year-old also admires how his hockey hero conducted himself off the ice.
“His character stood out to me,” says the fifth-year member of Canada’s National Para Hockey Team. “He and guys like Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby always understood the importance of being more than just a player. You always hear of them doing stuff in the community, and that is really important.”
Cozzolino has learned that lesson very well as he has emerged as an enthusiastic ambassador for a variety of causes when he isn’t on the ice competing for Canada.
Among the most personal of his outreach efforts are his visits to children being cared for at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto. The hospital is significant to Cozzolino; he was a patient there himself for six months following a check from behind in a minor hockey game back in 2009.
Always mindful and grateful for how the hospital came through for him, Cozzolino tries to make visits at least a couple of times each summer.
“The people there are amazing, and I owe them for where I am today so I visit and try and brighten some kids’ days and show them there is more out there,” says Cozzolino. “Even though things are not bright now, you can still make the most of [life].”
Cozzolino is also passionate about his work with Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities over the past four years. He supports the program’s mission of ensuring kids have access to sports and physical activity by running on-ice sessions in communities across Canada.
“I get kids in the sled and run practices for Jumpstart kids who have been provided with equipment for the day because normally they wouldn’t be able to afford the equipment to go out on the ice.”
A newer initiative Cozzolino has started to support in the last six months is The Code, a Hockey Canada and TELUS program designed to end bullying in the hockey community.
Team Canada captain Tyler McGregor, whose work with the organization All Sports All People inspired Cozzolino to become more active in the community, says his friend is a great ambassador because of his ability to forge relationships with people.
“Dom’s personality allows him to connect with anybody,” says McGregor. “He is very outgoing and very empathetic and has this charisma about him that enables him to connect with people from all walks of life. He is a positive role model for our sport and young people in Canada.”
Ken Babey, the head coach of the Canadian para hockey squad, says he, his coaching colleagues and the rest of the Hockey Canada staff work to empower every player on the roster to pursue endeavours to serve communities across Canada.
Public appearances by the entire team are one of the ways this mission is accomplished. Just before the 2019 Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup in Paradise, N.L., the group spent time at St. Peter’s Junior High School in Mount Pearl and the Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John’s.
Babey admires Cozzolino for the enthusiasm he displays at his outings, and foresees the young forward will continue to be a great advocate for para hockey in the years ahead.
“He is such a great communicator, and I think his great communication skills will help him to continue to be a great leader in helping to grow the game now and in the future.”