Jun 5, 2012 Los Angeles, CA

Canadian Who Dedicated Half a Century to Youth Hockey Wins 2012 Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award

For fifty years, Robert “Knobby” Knudsen has been a name synonymous with youth hockey in Windsor, Ontario. For his leadership, vision and selfless dedication, he has been selected as the recipient of the 2012 Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award.

Knudsen, who passed away last November, was a founding member of the Windsor Minor Hockey Association. He was so devoted to the sport that he even took out a second mortgage on his own home to keep the fledgling league alive. Over the years, his love of the sport touched thousands of young hockey players in Canada, and the positive impact he has had in his community is unquestioned.

The Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award was created to reward youth hockey players or mentors for their leadership and contributions to youth hockey or education. Nominations for the award were received from across North America. The award, which includes a $5,000 grant from Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (Bridgestone Americas), was presented last night by hockey legend Mark Messier before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup® Final.  The funds will be used for the continued support of the “Knobby’s Kids” program founded by Mr. Knudsen.

“It is really important that individuals like Robert Knudsen be recognized for the positive impact they have had on lives of impressionable young children,” Messier said.  “For that reason, I am proud to lend my name to this award.  I am thrilled that ‘Knobby’s Kids’ will continue to benefit from his lifetime of dedication to youth hockey.”

Mr. Knudsen’s legacy includes being recognized not only in youth hockey but also as a volunteer in baseball and football in addition to being a member of the Windsor Hall of Fame. To honor him and his work with youth, September 20 has been designated “Knobby Knudsen” day in Windsor.

His Kids Skate for Kids program, launched nine years ago, was a skating marathon for kids to help raise money for a roof to be added to an outdoor rink at Lanspeary Park in Windsor. This event included former NHL® players Bob Probert and Bob Boughner who came out to support the cause. This program became known as “Knobby’s Kids” and grew to help raise money for kids who couldn’t afford hockey equipment, to provide them with free ice time and instruction, and to help fund “graduates” who go on to play in the Windsor Minor Hockey Association. What started out with 20 kids has grown to include over 160 kids aged 2-13 years old, and has provided free equipment to children on Native American reservations and to children in communities as far away as Russia. Mr. Knudsen viewed his formation of “Knobby’s Kids” as his greatest accomplishment.

His tireless fundraising, coaching and organizing paved the way for thousands of kids to play hockey. The Windsor Minor Hockey Association and WESPY both have volunteer awards named for Mr. Knudsen,
“The one quote my dad always said and firmly believed in was ‘kids in sports stay out of courts,’” said Robert Knudsen Jr.  “And it meant the world to him to know that he was important in the life of a child.  Our community, both in Windsor and the youth hockey community, lost a legend last November when my father passed, but this award will help make sure his memory will live forever.  It is truly a fitting tribute to his legacy.”

“Congratulations to the Knudsen family and to the memory of Knobby Knudsen, a truly deserving honoree who had an enormous impact on the community he lived in,” said Phil Pacsi, Vice President, Customer Marketing and Training, Bridgestone Americas. “While Mr. Knudsen could not be here with us, we are grateful to have the chance to celebrate the life of someone who gave so much of themselves in order for Canadian youth hockey to thrive.”

The Bridgestone brand also serves as title sponsor of The Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award Presented by Bridgestone, which recognizes an NHL® player as a superior leader in hockey, and as a contributing member of society. The award honors an individual who leads by positive example through on-ice performance, motivation of team members and a dedication to community activities and charitable causes. This year, the award will be presented at the 2012 NHL Awards™ in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 20.  Finalists for this award are Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers, and Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes.