An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. The 2022 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner presentation is scheduled for Saturday, March 26.
Gabbie Hughes is enjoying a history-making senior season at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The standout forward is one of just three Division I women’s college hockey players in the nation to be named a finalist for both the Hockey Humanitarian Award and Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.
“I don’t even know how to express the emotions that go into being nominated for both awards,” Hughes said.
The Patty Kazmaier Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I college women’s hockey. The Hockey Humanitarian Award is presented annually to hockey’s finest citizen — a student athlete who makes significant contributions to not only their team, but also the community-at-large through leadership in volunteerism.
Hughes performed as one of the top offensive threats in the NCAA. But she’s also a founder and board member of “Sophie’s Squad,” an organization dedicated to improving the mental health of athletes from the youth level to college, while also honoring Sophie Wieland, a Minnesota 14-year-old, who tragically died by suicide last year.
“After losing Sophie, I just know she’s up there and she’s so proud,” Hughes said. “I know she’s looking down on me and I think she would just be so happy to see all of the good that is going on in her remembrance. I think that’s the No. 1 thing and hopefully people can see that. It means the world to be nominated for these awards, but I hope it reaches a bigger audience and people can draw into the importance of mental health.”
Hughes, a senior Integrated Elementary Special Education (IESE) major, said it was always a dream to hopefully one day put herself into position to be in the running for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
“To be a top-10 finalist is definitely crazy and something I have to pinch myself for, just to see that I am reaching a goal that I wanted since I was a young girl,” Hughes said. “I’m grateful to be in the top 10 for an award that’s incredible.”
It’s a well-deserved honor for Hughes, who led the NCAA in points per game for most of the season. She’s top three in the NCAA with 59 points and in the top five with 37 assists, which is also tied for eighth-most in Minnesota Duluth single-season history. Hughes has 18 multi-point efforts, including eight games with three or more points.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Hughes said. “Very, very busy, but I definitely thrive off a busy schedule and I think that’s led me to have the year that I’m having. The nine seniors from my class, being with the group for that long is so big and definitely contributing to our success. Being a senior and playing with my best friends is helping me perform to the best of my ability.”
Hughes, a native of Lino Lakes, Minnesota, has been a standout ever since arriving at Minnesota Duluth. Hughes is ninth all time in career scoring with 71 goals and 168 points in 125 games, and the assistant captain ranks eighth in program history with 97 assists. She was the seventh-fastest player in Bulldogs history to reach 150 points.
“To be in the top 10 shows the skill you have to have,” Hughes said. “To be performing as one of the best players in the country and being recognized for that is super important.”
Hughes plays on one of the most dynamic lines in the NCAA alongside Elizabeth Giguere and Anna Klein. Giguere is a previous Patty Kazmaier Award winner and she joined Hughes as a top-10 finalist this season, while Klein was a finalist last season.
The trio helped Duluth to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons. Hughes, in particular, scored a hat trick in an opening-round win against Harvard and she netted the game-winning goal in the semifinals versus Minnesota.
“Gabbie Hughes is a clutch performer and I can recall several games this year, and over the course of her career where she put the team on her back and delivered,” Minnesota Duluth coach Maura Crowell said. “Gabbie led the country in points per game for a long stretch this season, but she also does an incredible amount of work with Sophie’s Squad and it’s why she’s a top-five Hockey Humanitarian. As a person and a player, Gabbie truly does it all.”
Hughes joins Annie Pankowski (Wisconsin, 2019) and Chanda Gunn (Northeastern, 2003, 2004) as the only players in history to be named finalists for both the Patty Kazmaier and Hockey Humanitarian Awards.
Sophie’s Squad not only focuses on improving athletes’ mental health, but also removing the stigma associated with asking for help. Hughes, who runs all social media for the organization, coordinated a “Hockey Hits Back” game at Minnesota Duluth that raised more than $8,000 to provide mental health resources around Minnesota.
“Everything we’re doing and making people remember Sophie’s name is definitely super important,” Hughes said. “Our passion is still lit inside the group of people who are running the organization. I’m honored, humbled and grateful to be nominated for such an amazing award.”
Hughes can say the same for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
“I’m very honored and humbled by it,” Hughes said. “I’m grateful to be in this situation, to be nominated for such an amazing award.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.