Rising above the top

Rusty Clunie (left) presents Jacob Kwiatkowski with the 2016-17 Max Clunie Memorial Award at the Kinsmen Arena on Sunday night. This year, for the first time, the award includes a $1,000 scholarship. (Josef Jacobson/Daily Herald)

Minor hockey graduate wins annual Max Clunie Memorial Award and $1,000 scholarship

Jacob Kwiatkowski has played minor hockey in Prince Albert all his life, and now he’s receiving one of the league’s highest honours.

Kwiatkowski, who first laced up his skates in the Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association’s (PAMHA) initiation league as a four-year-old, is the recipient of the 2016-17 Max Clunie Memorial Award.

The award is named after Max Clunie, a local football and hockey player who passed away with four others in a plane crash in northern Saskatchewan in 2011 at the age of 15. Each year since then the award has been presented in Max’s memory to the P.A. minor midget hockey player “who consistently displays the characteristics that Max brought to each and every game,” which include passion, determination, focus, fearlessness and leadership. This year, for the first time, the award includes a $1,000 scholarship to be used towards post-secondary education or a trade.

“I was super excited. It was pretty crazy. I couldn’t believe it, honestly, with all the competition. I was in shock,” Kwiatkowski added.

“It means a lot. It’s pretty cool to know that I got picked for the award and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates or coaches and I just wanted to thank them for nominating me.”

The award was originally created by two of Max’s former coaches, Frank Suchorab and Kevin Mugford, with support from PAMHA and the Clunie family’s blessings.

“We wanted to do something just to honour Max as a minor hockey player,” Suchorab said.

“We didn’t want him forgotten in the minor hockey world… We thought it would be nice to keep that legacy going. He was a leader and well liked and a good kid.”

“A key part of it was, those qualities that Max had, there’s numerous kids that have that each and every year that deserve that level of recognition,” Mugford said.

“(There are) other kids with that same determination and dedication to what they’re doing. So here we are, to our surprise, already six years in to honouring fine young gentlemen in Prince Albert.”

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