Over the years, there have been numerous alumni of the Hockey Night In Boston Major Showcase that have gone on to do great things on the ice.
Tucker Mullin has gone on to do great things as well. While he did have an outstanding college career, his greatest endeavors have been off the ice, both during and after college. He has dedicated himself to helping others less fortunate.
In 2009, Mullin co-founded the Thomas E. Smith Foundation, along with his good friend Tommy Smith. The Foundation’s mission is to “Better the lives of those affected by and living with paralysis through financial and emotional support, as well as supporting preventive innovations that decrease the risk of spinal cord injuries.”
Since its inception, the foundation has awarded over $300,000 in grants.
For those who do not know the back story, Tommy Smith suffered a severe spinal injury in a hockey game in the Summer of 2008. After at first being told by doctors that within two years he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, a rigorous daily workout routine through the Miami Project To Cure Paralysis Center helped Smith regain his walking, strength and mobility. In May of 2009, considered by doctors to be a “walking miracle,” Smith was cleared to play hockey again.
After graduating from Pingree School in May of 2008, Smith was set to join a junior hockey team for the 08-09 season, the same team Mullin was playing for after graduating from Phillips Andover and prior to going to St Anselm University.
“Someone told me he was supposed to play for us,” Mullin remembered. “We had played against each other in prep school, I don’t remember the game. He came to training camp and I realized something had happened. I got to know him very quickly. I took it upon myself to stay in touch through his recovery. I had planned to go to St. Anselm when he told me he was cleared by doctors to play again.”
During Smith’s recovery, Mullin was right there, helping his new friend get back on the ice, and working with him to get his skating back to where it once was. Smith got the clearance to resume playing and started with the same junior team in the Fall of 2009. In October of that year, the unthinkable happened.
“Then, my freshman year at St. A’s, he called me,” said Mullin, an investment management associate with Goldman Sachs. “I’ll never forget the phone call. It had happened again. What were the odds of that happening? I got to the hospital and we realized that we needed to do something. There was a reason for this. We decided to start this organization. The Foundation was created out of his hospital room.”
Thus, the Thomas E Smith Foundation was born.
Mullin said that the name of the Foundation was important. “Tommy is a living example of ‘it happened to me and I’m still here and OK. Keep working hard.’ It became our life-long mission of finding a cure for paralysis.”
The foundation awarded its first grant in 2011 and has now given out over $300,000 in grants. Mullin oversees various fundraising events and says the hockey community cares. The foundation has helped people from 5 to 65 years old throughout New England.
He wants it to keep growing and be sustainable. The former Andover HS star is hoping to reach a goal of $500,000 in grants awarded within the next two years to help more people. Mullin is also looking to see more ice hockey rinks install the Look Up Line, a 40-inch warning track which extends around the entire circumference of a rink. It serves to warn players to keep their heads up when approaching the boards and to be careful not to body check opposing players from behind. Smith was the founder of the Look Up Line Safety Program initiative.
“We are looking to make the game safer,” Mullin said. “It first debuted in 2012. We need kids playing on it and understanding it. It is a dangerous part of the ice. It costs about $550 for a rink to put in. Costs for someone who suffers a spinal injury are probably a thousand times that.”
In addition to the Thomas E. Smith Foundation, Mullin is also involved with Team Impact, a national non-profit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams, forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes, according to its website.
Through Team Impact, the St. Anselm hockey team took in a young boy named Ben Roy, who was a five-year cancer survivor at the age of nine. It was Mullin who spearheaded the effort. Because of his experience, Mullin is now an ambassador for the program.
“It is because of my experience making Ben a part of our team at St. Anselm,” he said. “It was life changing, to get that perspective from someone who was half your age. It makes you appreciate who they are. To be part of a team is really special.”
As a result of his involvement with the Thomas E. Smith Foundation and Team Impact, during his senior season at St. Anselm, Mullin was awarded the Hockey Humanitarian Award by the NCAA, presented annually to college hockey’s “finest citizen.” The award seeks to recognize college hockey players, male or female, who contribute to local and/or global communities in a true humanitarian spirit.
The award is presented at the same ceremony where the Hobey Baker Award is announced during the NCAA Frozen Four tournament.
“It was a huge honor to win that award and it has stayed as a huge honor for me,” Mullin said. “I never set a goal to win the award. It just happened.”
Now, Mullin, who had 104 career points at St. Anselm, is on the Humanitarian Award board, helping to choose future winners.
“It is incredible what goes on on a lot of different teams, both at the Division 1 and Division 3 level,” he said. “It represents a lot of good. Submissions come in from schools all across the country. I love working with the board.”
Hockey Night in Boston
Prior to his post-grad year at Phillips Andover, Mullin played four varsity seasons at Andover High School. He also was a part of four summers at Hockey Night in Boston.
“One of my biggest takeaways was I remember making the Sophomore All Star team and we got to play against seniors,” he said. “I remember thinking the game was so fast, that I hoped that when I was a senior, I could be that good.
“You got to play against kids from all over, and with kids that you grew up playing against in youth hockey. It was a good measuring stick. To see where you stood. What type of player you really were.”
Heading into his post-grad year, Mullin played on a team that featured future Big Blue teammates Bobby Farnham, Jack Walsh and Patrick Keegan, and played against another guy headed for Andover in goalie Glenn Stowell.
“They are still my best friends today,” he said. “It’s great. The tournament brings a lot of people together. Hockey is tight-knit.”