The Rochester Americans are proud to announce that defenseman Nathan Paetsch has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Rochester community during the 2017-18 season.
Following two Calder Cup championships during a five-year stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Paetsch returned to the Amerks organization in 2017-18 and made an immediate impact in his return to the Rochester community. Prior to the start of the season, his fifth in Rochester and first since the 2010-11 campaign, Paetsch accompanied several Amerks players, coaches and office staff by delivering season tickets to various local businesses and corporate partners of the organization.
Shortly after the season began, the 34-year-old suffered a broken leg in just his third game of the season that kept him out of the lineup for nearly three months. Paetsch, a former three-time winner of the Amerks’ McCulloch Trophy for his commitment and dedication to the Rochester community, made the most of his time, however, as he would regularly make appearances to meet with fans and other youth organizations either during or following games as part of the Captain’s Club program.
A few weeks later, Paetsch kicked off the 13th season of the ever-popular Amerks Reading Power Play Program at the Fairport Public Library. The Amerks Reading Power Play program involves players stopping by local libraries, reading to kids and giving a hockey demonstration and allows the kids to learn about the game of hockey and the shows the importance of reading.
As the holidays approached, Paetsch spearheaded a full team outing as all 25 Amerks players, in addition to head coach Chris Taylor, visited all three Rochester-area hospitals in the same day. Paetsch led a contingent of players to Golisano Children’s Hospital – the very place his own son was born seven years prior – to share some smiles and spread Christmas spirit to patients. While there, he played musical bingo, made room visits and also surprised the children, along with their families, with an assortment of Amerks teddy bears and Christmas gifts to help make their holidays a little more cheerful.
Later in the season, the Amerks partnered with the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester to host “Defend the Ice Month” during the month of February. The month-long campaign focused on efforts to help raise awareness for polar bear and ice conservation primarily in the Arctic regions. The Amerks wore special polar bear-themed jerseys along with matching socks in support of polar bear awareness. To close out the month, Paetsch, along with goaltender Adam Wilcox, volunteered to sign autographs and meet with fans at the zoo.
Paetsch also extended his services back to the ice, most recently providing on-ice instruction and coaching with the Rochester IceCats hockey team. As members of Special Hockey International, a division of USA Hockey, Rochester Special Hockey is an organization that specializes in providing training and instruction in the game of hockey for individuals with developmental disabilities. The IceCats have an active roster of 38 players, male and female, ranging in age from eight years old to 40. The organization has a strong emphasis on valuable life lessons such as skill building, sportsmanship and learning to interact with others.
The Amerks once again partnered with New York’s 529 College Savings Plan for the return of the Amerks Jr. Reporter Program and Paetsch helped provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to local kids that won the chance to interview him and get a tour of the Amerks locker room afterwards as well as watch an Amerks practice.
One of Paetsch’s most admirable attributes is his willingness to develop personal relationships with the fans. Following games which came with a “jersey off the back” presentation to the winning fans, Paetsch always took it upon himself to greet each fan with a smile and thank them for being such a loyal supporter of the team.
In addition to being a true Amerks ambassador both on and off the ice, these are just a few of the outstanding things Paetsch is consistently doing to make a difference in the Greater Rochester Community all while serving as one of the Amerks assistant captains.
Paetsch is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2017-18 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League at a later date.