As the recipient of the 2015 Atlantic University Sport student-athlete community service award, it was testament to Sarah MacNeil’s efforts on and off the ice. Of note, she was the fourth member in the history of the Dalhousie Tigers program to earn the award, recognizing the individual that best combines academics, athletics and community involvement: having followed the likes of Lori Jones, Leah Kutcher and Kaitlyn McNutt. Other Tigers that earned AUS awards in 2015 included Lisa MacLean, recognized as an AUS First-Team All-Star, along with goaltender Jessica Severyns, gaining a nod to the AUS All-Rookie Team.
With the award win, MacNeil (who grew up in Albert Bridge) became the AUS nominee for the prestigious Marion Hilliard Award (which was won by Nicole Kesteris). This complemented two other awards that recognized MacNeil’s outstanding contributions in the community. In February 2015, MacNeil was the proud recipient of the Sun Life Financial/CIS Scholarship Award, paying tribute to her superlative volunteer efforts within the community and the university.
In addition, she earned recognition at the Dalhousie Impact Awards with the Tigers Live Well Award. Acknowledging the efforts of an individual whose charitable efforts not only made a significant contribution to the community, but increased awareness at Dalhousie of a given charity or cause, it highlighed her positive impact, quite possibly the greatest hallmark of her time as a student-athlete.
A three-time academic all-Canadian, MacNeil also served as an assistant captain for the Tigers. Prior to joining the Tigers, she was a First-Team All-Star in the Nova Scotia Female Midget AAA Hockey League. A member of the Tigers program since 2011, she was one of only three fourth-year players on the roster this season, joined by Sarah Robichaud and Joleen MacInnis. MacNeil would suit up in 23 of 24 regular season games for the Tigers in 2014-15, helping the club reach the AUS semi-finals in the postseason.
Off the ice, her leadership was remarkably evident. Proudly donating her time as the program’s liaison for community volunteering and fundraising, she was a member of Dalhousie’s Varsity Council. Throughout the year, MacNeil was part of six different noble causes, all looking to bring betterment to the less fortunate.
Among said causes, she helped organize Hockey Players for Kids (HP4K), consisting of a reading competition at a local elementary school. In addition to serving as a student at-large board member for Recreation Nova Scotia, she was also part of the Easter Seals sledge hockey program.
During the holiday season, MacNeil was prominent throughout Halifax. Of note, she participated in Operation Christmas Child, the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign, along with the Chronicle Herald Parade of Lights.
MacNeil’s assiduous efforts have not only set new standards of excellence for other Dalhousie student-athletes to emulate, but her strong leadership and presence throughout the community was redemption for a program that was maligned a few years ago. After a misunderstanding over a question at a party resulted in a group of non-first year players suspended for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, compounded by the Tigers forefeiting their season, it represented a sad chapter in the team’s history.
With great dedication to the community and remarkable maturity, MacNeil’s devotion as a hockey humanitarian and cherished friend was integral to the healing process. With one year of eligibility remaining, it is a special opportunity for the Dalhousie community to celebrate her career. Representing the extraordinary possibilities of the positive impact student-athletes can bring to the community, the upcoming season is a chance for AUS hockey fans to appreciate her inspiring heart of gold.
Image obtained from Facebook