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Hockey Humanitarian Award Finalist Feature: Syracuse’s Thompson travelling world to fuel Sticks Together initiative with love of hockey, passion for sport at forefront – College Hockey | USCHO.com

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Syracuse hockey player Sarah Thompson traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the non-profit organization she founded, Sticks Together, which provides children opportunities to learn and grow through the sport of ice hockey. (photo: stickstogether.org).

It’s fair to ask if 15 is too young for an athlete to commit to a college future.

After all, a long time remains before they make the leap from high school to college and teenagers are known to change their minds with sometimes stunning frequency.

But it was at 15 that Sarah Thompson chose to study and play hockey at Syracuse, making the decision to commit to the central New York campus a little over a week after a visit.

“I felt this school had everything,” said Thompson, who just wrapped up her fourth year with the Orange. “I could sense the community already. Everybody was wearing orange. I was walking around campus, and I was truly blown away. It was an easy decision, and a quick decision.”

At Syracuse, where she said she plans to play next year as a graduate student, Thompson has laid the groundwork for what she hopes is a lifetime in hockey. With a sport management major and a minor in sport analytics under her belt, Thompson said she hopes to play professionally then work for an NHL team.

Sarah Thompson scored nine goals and added four assists for 13 points this season for the Orange (photo: Diana Valdivia).

She also hopes to continue the non-profit organization she launched two years ago, Sticks Together, which provides children in disadvantaged areas opportunities to learn and grow through the sport of ice hockey.

Through Sticks Together, Thompson has traveled the world aiming to reach families living in low-income communities where opportunities for children to learn and play sports can be few and far between.

Her efforts with Sticks Together have earned Thompson the honor of being named a finalist for this year’s Hockey Humanitarian Award.

During a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thompson and her group brought street-hockey equipment — including sticks, cones and nets — to children in a soccer-mad country who were, at first, a little bewildered at the sight of gear for a new and unfamiliar sport.

“They had no idea what it even was,” Thompson said. “But it was so exciting to have something new. And just having us there, all the hugs we got. They just appreciate every little thing they have, so much. It made me realize that a lot of the things I stress about, I really shouldn’t, because I’m very fortunate.”

The street version of the sport was the perfect vessel to introduce hockey to children in Argentina, where opportunities to play on ice are limited. In fact, street hockey was where Thompson first started to play the game growing up in Ottawa.

“All the boys in my neighborhood were playing, and I just picked up a stick,” Thompson said. “My dad was like, hey, maybe she’d actually want to play this. So then I learned to skate. That’s how I really got into it. That’s the grassroots of the game and how so many people in Canada fall in love with the game, just starting out on your front yard.”

Passion for sport is the root of what motivated Thompson to start Sticks Together. Thompson — whose travels with Sticks Together have also brought her to South Africa — said it was at a soccer game in Buenos Aires featuring the professional club La Boca where she got a taste of how passion for sport can feed a community.

“We were being thrown around in mosh pits, basically, and they scored one goal, and I’ll never forget — the woman next to me, grabbed me and started crying,” Thompson said. “I was like, this is crazy. Soccer is a religion for them. They’re just so passionate and it brings people together so much more than I’d ever seen before. That was special, seeing how much happiness sports brings to the people.”

Sarah Thompson plays tough on the ice and loves giving back off the ice (photo: stickstogether.org).

Thompson said she’s not ready to give up playing hockey yet.

“It’s far too soon for that,” she said. “I don’t see myself being done with my playing career any time soon. Beyond that, I want to stay connected in hockey in any way possible.

“The future, I have no idea what it’s going to look like, but I know hockey will be a part of it.”

To learn more about Sticks Together, visit www.stickstogether.org.

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