Editor’s Note: The King Clancy Memorial Trophy is presented annually to the NHL Player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community. Each NHL Club nominates a player to be considered for this recognition, and each nominee has a unique and powerful connection to his community efforts. Today, the Calgary Flames’ nominee for the 2023-24 season – Andrew Mangiapane – shares his story.

You never forget the feeling of being an underdog.

It was, for me, a regular part of my youth hockey experience. I was always the short kid on the team. Always skinnier than everyone else. And because I had a smaller frame, I was always less likely to be taken seriously as a hockey player -- no matter how much I loved the game or worked on developing my skills. Even after I got drafted, people weren’t shy about saying I didn’t have a realistic path to make it to the NHL.

I knew the labels and assumptions were out there, and I used them as motivation to prove people wrong. To this day, I still play with a chip on my shoulder. But I also play with an appreciation for the lessons I picked up along the way. When someone counts you out, you learn that believing in yourself is the most effective way to reclaim your power.

You also learn to look out for the people who are being overlooked.

That’s the major theme of my community program with the Youth Centres of Calgary (YCC), where we give kids from Ogden an opportunity to play hockey in a supportive environment. Ogden is a neighborhood that’s seen its share of challenges. Kids who call Ogden home have faced labels and assumptions that are much heavier than anything I’ve had to deal with. Many of them have been counted out because they happen to come from an underprivileged area. But they’re great kids, and they deserve a chance to be kids, with the encouragement to chase any dream that they’re willing to work toward.

“Mange’s Breadsticks” aims to use hockey to provide encouragement in the lives of these children. The program runs twice a week between October and May and gives the YCC everything it needs to help kids learn the basics of hockey -- from on-ice lessons that develop fitness and skills, to life lessons that highlight how perseverance and teamwork make a difference in this sport. I’m extremely grateful that the Flames Foundation and the Calgary Italian Open Society matched a financial contribution from myself and my fiancée, Claudia, to launch the program in October 2023.


Every time I visit the YCC, I realize how special these kids are and how fortunate I am to be able to introduce them to the game I love. But I don’t see myself as their hockey coach. I want to be more like their big brother -- someone who reminds them what they’re capable of doing, who sees them for who they are, and who is happy to just hang out and brighten their day. If I’ve become a role model for any of the YCC kids, I hope it’s not limited to hockey. Whether they dream of becoming an NHL player, a doctor, a lawyer, or anything else, I want to represent that they can accomplish any possibility if they put in the effort. 

I also want to continue finding new ways to offer support. On the Flames Foundation Night of Giving, I was able to partner with Coca-Cola to provide every kid in “Mange’s Breadsticks” with a brand-new set of hockey equipment. A few months later, the Italian Centre Shop offered to collaborate on a special “#88” loaf of bread, with meal kits donated to the YCC for every loaf of bread sold. The collaboration ended up providing more than 850 meals so YCC kids and their families can have one less thing to worry about.


Being part of the Flames organization has given me a platform to make these community connections. There’s a strong legacy of leadership here. During my career, I’ve seen how guys like Mark Giordano, T. J. Brodie and Mikael Backlund have each made a difference for causes that are much bigger than hockey. Whenever I put on the Flames jersey, I know that their contributions on and off the ice helped define what it means to play for this city.

It's an extra reason why wearing the Flames jersey means so much to me. I’ve learned a lot about myself by getting to the NHL, but the most important thing I’ve learned is what I can do with the position I’m in now. There are other kids out there who are underdogs in their own way, and I want to help as many of them as I can. I hope the YCC program can be a spark for them to use the underdog mentality as a strength and confidently push past any limited expectations of what they can achieve.