Dawg Nation President Martin Richardson (center) presents a check to Chris Earls during a January 2015 bubble hockey tournament. The nonprofit Dawg Nation helps hockey players and fans like Earls, who is battling cancer. Photo by Jessica Taves
February Community Game Changer
Martin Richardson rallies community support for hockey players and fans in need
By Chase Squires
Martin Richardson is the kind of guy who doesn’t back down from seemingly impossible situations. He seeks them out.
Out with injuries for most of his high school senior varsity soccer season, he missed out on a big-name school soccer scholarship. So, he tried out at Metropolitan State University of Denver. When a coach whispered that he was too small to play college soccer, Richardson proved him wrong in the tryout and went on to be team captain, leading scorer and MVP of the 1986 Roadrunners team.
And as a self-described beer-league hockey player, when he saw friends struggle, he pulled a team together, plowed through a maze of IRS rules and created a nonprofit that has raised more than $550,000 in four years. The nonprofit Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation helps those in need, often members of a loosely defined community of hockey fans and players.
“I’m never going to not be busy. I’m a driven guy,” Richardson says. “I’m also a compassionate person, and there is honestly no better feeling than to help those in need.”
The Roadrunners soccer alumnus and recreational hockey player started a Littleton hockey team called the Junkyard Dawgs when The Edge ice arena opened in Littleton. The team was so popular, he and his teammates created a second team, Dawgs 2. That wasn’t enough, so members formed several new teams across the Denver area, all with Dawg-themed names, including Dawgs 1, Old Dawgs, Lost Dawgs, and Rabid Dawgs.
It turned out they all were good Dawgs.
In 2009 Richardson’s friend and fellow teammate Jack Kelly started losing weight, ravaged by an illness that struck without warning.
“I knew we could do something, even something small,” Richardson says.
He asked players to pitch in what they could to buy restaurant gift cards for his friend’s three daughters, so they could eat out after visiting at the hospital.
“I thought we might get a couple hundred bucks,” he says. “Fifteen hundred bucks later, I knew this group was special.”
Sadly, Kelly died within six months. At the same time another teammate was diagnosed with cancer. Then a second. Then a third. Richardson wanted to act, but at first he didn’t know how.
A financial director for a global computer company, Richardson does nothing small. He got the idea to create the foundation, lined up members, and made it happen. He now serves as president. His wife, Cindy, is treasurer, and board members include former NHL star and Colorado Avalanche TV analyst Peter McNab and Ball Corp. CEO John Hayes.
The foundation reaches out to hockey players and fans who need a hand. Dawg Nation raises money through hockey tournaments, “bubble hockey” events (tabletop hockey), comedy events and golf tournaments. Now Richardson is seeking a grant writer to push the foundation higher while lining up business leaders and sports celebrities to join “the Nation.”
Dan Hohenstein was one of the old crew, officiating games for the league, when Richardson told him about the foundation starting up in 2011.
“I said, ‘I’ll help. Whatever you need from me, I’m all in. Officiate games at tournaments, anything I can do,’” Hohenstein recalls.
Two weeks later, the 31-year veteran mail carrier was working on a snowy day when an SUV slid into him and pinned him against his mail truck. He nearly lost his crushed leg and was out of work for a year and a half.
Dawg Nation was there from the start, making him one of its first official beneficiaries and helping with support that made up for the income lost when he couldn’t officiate games or work overtime, as medical bills mounted.
“These guys, that’s just who they are. They give and give and give and never ask for anything back,” Hohenstein says, adding that today, back on his feet, he tries to attend and contribute to as many Dawg Nation events as he can.
Richardson, 50, goes by his hockey nickname “Cappy” on the ice; he’s known in the league as The Dawg Father. He says everything ties back to his MSU Denver days. That’s where he earned the accounting degree in 1987 that got him started. It’s where he made the connections that led to his first job. It’s where he developed the courage to overcome a fear of public speaking. It’s where he learned to listen, to network, make connections, and spot opportunities.
“I wouldn’t trade my Metro experience for anything,” says Richardson, who also volunteers to coach youth soccer. “It gave me the foundation for everything I use today.”
Content Provided By Metropolitan State University of Denver
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