Northern Lights award series recognizes Ferris hockey coach Bob Daniels

HONORED: Ferris State University hockey coach Bob Daniels guides his players through a game against Ohio State University this weekend. Daniels received a Northern Lights award after Saturday’s game. (Pioneer photo/Marty Slagter)

Daniels says “unique bond” between hockey program, Big Rapids community makes award especially meaningful 

BIG RAPIDS – While Ferris State University hockey coach Bob Daniels was honored by the Northern Lights award he received after Saturday’s hockey game, he was hesitant to claim the recognition for himself.

“I was very excited to get the award, but truthfully I was also a little embarrassed by it,” Daniels said. “I got the award based on really a lot of hard work by the players and last year’s team. I’ve gotten a lot of awards based on last year, when in reality it’s a group award rather than an individual accomplishment.”

Hockey fan or not, anyone in the Big Rapids area knows what last year meant to the Ferris hockey program – the 2011-12 team brought home the program’s second Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular season title, made the first Frozen Four run and recorded the university’s first appearance in a national championship competition for any sport. Daniels also was named the 2012 NCAA Division I hockey coach of the year.

“We spend one full year looking throughout the community to find somebody who is worthy of (this) award,” said Steve Miller, chair of the Northern Lights Outdoor Activities and Sports committee and sponsor of the award series. “(Bob Daniels) is recognized by his peers, his league, his division. His school is doing something special, and he gets attention for that. It’s in how he takes care of the people he does coach, the youth and how he spends time in the community.”

Miller and several other committee members rushed the ice in Ewigleben Ice Arena following Ferris’ win over Ohio State University to surprise Daniels with his award.

Kicking of its 12th year, the Mecosta County Medical Center Foundation’s Northern Lights annual award series is meant to recognize community members who make significant contributions in seven different areas that make up the acronym MECOSTA: Management, business and industry; Environment; Civics; Outdoor activities and sports; Social services and health; Training and education; and Arts and entertainment.

Separate committees select the recipients for each category and then make a surprise presentation of the award. After all the awards have been distributed, a reception is held to recognize recipients.

Although an announcement was made during Saturday’s hockey game reminding people to stay afterward for a presentation, Daniels still was caught off guard to find out the presentation consisted of a Northern Lights award for himself.

“It was quite a surprise,” he said. “I only heard it once, and they said it was going to be a presentation. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.”

The 2,350 hockey fans looking on as MCMC Foundation chair Tom Hogenson presented Daniels with his Northern Lights award attested to how invested the Big Rapids community is in Ferris hockey – and made the award that much more meaningful to Daniels.

NORTHERN LIGHTS: Members of the MCMC Foundation’s “outdoor activities and sports” award committee surprise Ferris hockey coach Bob Daniels (far right) with a Northern Lights award after the game on Saturday. (Pioneer photo/Lauren Fitch)

“I saw the community rally and support (the hockey program when there was the possibility of it being eliminated 24 years ago),” Daniels said. “That has created really a unique bond between the community and the hockey program. I don’t know that you would get that anywhere else in the country. I really feel that we’ve always appreciated their support, we’ve never taken the community for granted. They’ve really embraced this program and embraced athletics as a whole at Ferris State.”

Still quick to shy from the spotlight, Daniels pointed out how involved his wife, Leslie, is in the community and her role supporting himself and the hockey program.

“She’d probably realistically be a better recipient of this award than me,” he said.

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