With the PHF Awards serving as the closing chapter to its seventh season, a series of honors went beyond statistics. Celebrating the commendable efforts of its players as Hockey Humanitarians, the benefit of the Foundation Award is that one player from each franchise earns recognition.
Long celebrated as one of the most talented skaters to wear the Minnesota Whitecaps jersey, team captain Allie Thunstrom earned this year’s Foundation Award. Representing the second such honor in her distinguished career, Thunstrom first earned the Award in 2020, in recognition for her efforts with Winny Brodt-Brown’s OS Training Program, along with her commendable public speaking at schools. Articulate and thoughtful, a role model to her teammates; her focus to pay it forward sets an admirable goal.
Additionally, a finalist for the Most Valuable Player Award, Thunstrom, bouncing back splendidly from a knee injury that hampered her performance last season, enjoyed another exceptional milestone in 21-22. Enjoying the rare privilege of being an All-Star twice in one season, the experience propelled Thunstrom, the all-time scoring leader for the franchise in the PHF era, to a more profound relevance among the greats of the game.
One of three Whitecaps skaters named to participate in the PHF All-Star Showcase, contested in Buffalo, the privilege of team captain bestowed upon her was merely prologue. Worth noting, the images of all three PHF All-Star captains, Thunstrom, Shiann Darkangelo and Jillian Dempsey, graced Upper Deck hockey cards, destined to become collector’s items. Coincidentally, Dempsey and Thunstrom were both co-recipients of the league’s MVP Award in 2020.
Adding to the theme of coincidence, Dempsey, also captain of the Boston Pride, shared in Thunstrom’s other All-Star milestone. Both named as participants for the 2022 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic at Jacksonville, Florida’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Thunstrom also recorded a solid time of 13.75 seconds in the Fastest Skater Competition.
Aligned with the ECHL All-Stars, Thunstrom scored at the 6:10 mark of the first period. Dempsey wore the blue jersey of the opposing Jacksonville Icemen, while former Wisconsin Badgers competitor Sophia Shaver also called Thunstrom a teammate in a high scoring 14-7 affair.
Finishing the season with 18 goals and 21 points, the Foundation Award allowed Thunstrom a win-win scenario. With Principal Investments committed to donating $10,000 to the charity of choice for each Foundation Award recipient, the potential to improve lives and help bring about significant change for its beneficiaries encompassed a tremendous teamwork.
Looking inward, with a focus on improving a heartwarming facet of the game in her home state, Thunstrom’s preferred charitable cause held profound meaning. DinoMights, a hockey organization founded in 1995 by John Foley, services a trio of neighborhoods in South Minneapolis, including Phillips, Powderhorn and Central.
Having admirably served as a volunteer with DinoMights in 2020-21, providing instruction to the Squirts and Under-10 Girls teams, it marked the continuation of a fascinating narrative. Of note, Thunstrom’s initial exposure to the organization stemmed back to her teens.
“The Dinomights are a program that date back to when I played youth. I played for St. Paul Harding and we would play against the Dinomights. We seemed to always play at Mariucci – which was very memorable to play there. As I got older I was frequently asked how to grow the game and what type of barriers exist for people to try hockey – the Dinomights are an organization that works to eliminate those barriers and give kids in the community the opportunity to not only play hockey but provides tutoring, mentorship, friendship and community.
They really do embody everything that hockey should be about. Getting to volunteer with the program I saw first hand the difference it makes. It was such a rewarding experience. No matter what was going on outside the rink – once you stepped on the ice with the kids everyone was smiling and having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
Geared towards inclusion and fostering a positive sense of friendship and with at-risk youth, the four core values of DinoMights include Listen, Work Hard, Encourage and Celebrate. Running parallel to their on-ice initiatives, tutoring services ensure the participants have reading skills suitable to their grade level. Undoubtedly, their tremendous efforts are poised to benefit greatly from Principal’s philanthropic gift.
Fittingly, the positive impact of DinoMights has reached other empowering corners of the PHF. During the first weekend of April 2022, Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena hosted the Willie O’Ree Skills Weekend. Named in honor of the first black player in NHL history, the Weekend hosted players ages 12-14, including a handful of DinoMights skaters. Worth noting, several players from the Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride, a franchise of which O’Ree holds an ownership stake, were on-hand to provide instruction.
Finding inspiration in one of DinoMigths’ success stories, James Toussaint, his achievements were definitely a source of influence for Thunstrom. First involved with the organization as a player during Millennium, only nine years young, Toussaint took on a role with the staff in 2012. Growing into the role of mentor to a generation of players, his career embodies the positive impact of DinoMights hockey.
Although Toussaint currently holds the title of Minneapolis site administrator, his assiduousness with DinoMights involves versatility. From coaching, sourcing equipment and providing transportation, his tireless efforts allow the younger players someone they can hope to emulate.
To have the presence of a world-class athlete such as Thunstrom, and a world-class person in Toussaint, the amalgamation of sporting brilliance, dedication and sincerity create an environment where friendship and self-esteem can grow.
Certainly, the facet of growth provided a powerful impression for Thunstrom. Bringing a big heart and a warm smile, the feeling of reciprocation encompasses her sentiments. Finding a venue where the meaning of the game goes beyond the final score, the sense of reward and achievement represent a shared victory.
“While volunteering I also met James Toussaint who is the program manager now. He talked about how he grew up in the DinoMights organization and what it has meant to him and his life.
Now you see him working to provide that same experience to other kids and it is really incredible. There are a lot of very worthy organizations but it was an easy choice for me. I think when all is said and done, I learned so much more from the kids than I could have ever taught them.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”