It is a rare feat in athletics, let alone college athletics, for an athlete to be as well known for their abilities in the playing arena as they are for their service to others outside of it. Despite the rarity, that’s exactly what the senior women’s hockey team graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth Gabbie Hughes accomplished
Hughes, one of only three players in NCAA Division I women’s hockey history to be named both a Patty Kazmaier Top 3 Finalist and Hockey Humanitarian Finalist, has long lost the hockey game. Already one of the seventh leading scorers in Bulldog program history, the product of Lino Lakes, Minn. currently leads the team with 22 points in 17 games (4g, 18a). Only four UMD players have ever had more assists than Hughes, who ranks just five assists in fourth place and 12 in the top three. In all of college hockey right now, only one player has tallied more career points than Hughes (190) – she doesn’t just rank among the legends of the game UMD, she ranks among the legends of the game of all time .
But as most hockey fans in the state know by now, that changed to Hughes on July 12, 2021. A month later, the Hughes family and Sophie Wieland’s family started Sophie’s Squad, a nonprofit organization charity dedicated to improving the mental health of athletes from the youth to college level by raising awareness of mental health issues and eliminating the stigma associated with seeking help.
A year and four months later, Sophie’s Squad is doing exactly what the organization set out to do. And Hughes, long known for her hockey prowess, is now also known for her commitment to mental health awareness. Passionate and involved like never before, Hughes’ quest to educate the world of hockey and beyond, through the vein of Sophie’s Squad, is unwavering.
“Looking back on the journey of the organization, I can’t help but smile,” Hughes said recently. “Seeing the many different events we’ve had and the people we’ve touched is so heartwarming. I believe we help people understand that they’re not alone and that it’s okay not to be well. At over the year we’ve been an organization we’ve had a huge impact and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us I know Soph would be so proud of what we do.
A spokesperson who has taken on several roles within the organization, Hughes is busier than ever. The only way to know how busy she is is to ask those around her, as the Bulldog Center doesn’t openly light up on herself.
Just this election day, a mandatory day off from the NCAA, Hughes traveled to Children’s Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota to tour a new 22-bed inpatient wing for youth and adolescent mental health. . It was there that Hughes wrote and helped present a $50,000 donation to help fund the athletic/play aspects of Children’s Minnesota’s new inpatient mental health unit. After the tour, Hughes returned to Duluth, a common experience over the past year for the uncommon attorney.
Sophie’s Squad has had a year any nonprofit would be proud of, and as of November 29, 2022, $219,706 has been raised for the organization. While the $50,000 donation to Children’s Minnesota is by far the organization’s largest donation, the majority of funds raised through Sophie’s Squad events are reinvested into awareness events, providing educational resources and materials, as well as merchandise to student athletes participating in the events.
Sophie’s Squad has hosted over 23 different events so far. And Hughes, who was part of the creation and creation of Sophie’s Squad, is also involved in as many events as she reasonably can be, doing everything from serving as a keynote speaker to helping coordinate and organize events, as well as managing most social media. accounts.
“In knowing the Hughes family for eight years now, I have learned that they are the most generous and passionate family I know, and Gabbie Hughes is no different,” said Rick Fiester, director of advisory services and medical education and board member. “Since the start of Sophie’s Squad, she has been categorically supportive and involved. The passion she shares on and off the ice is immeasurable. As a spokesperson at the college level, his influence had a lasting impact on many in the hockey community, from youth to adults and beyond. Trying to balance college, hockey, family and with the addition of Sophie’s team can be daunting at times, I’m sure, but Gabbie seems to use that to motivate her and succeed in all aspects. Her contributions to her community feel like a legacy to them and yet she humbly lives her life without asking for recognition, but rather quietly making a difference in today’s mental health world.”
Hughes left the national championship game last March to take on a number of responsibilities within the organization. After jumping in to help Sophie’s team stand at the Minnesota Hockey Exhibition between games at the NCAA Tournament in mid-March in Minneapolis, Minn. (and scoring four goals to advance the ‘UMD in his second NCAA Frozen Four), Hughes hit the ground running on March 24 and helped with the first-ever Minnesota Wild sanity game for Sophie’s Squad. Hughes has spoken at various summer events and was an integral part of the inaugural Sophie’s Squad 5k Run/Walk and golf event on September 10, 2022. Hughes helped plan it, organized it, brought participants together and volunteers and even spoke at the event. before the 5k to all participants. These may be things that others don’t notice or observe on a day-to-day basis, but for those inside the organization they are paramount.
“Gabbie’s commitment to mental health awareness extends far beyond the world of hockey,” said Mike Northquest, Chief Financial Officer of Sophie’s Squad. “She took time out of an already busy schedule to participate in a walk through MN Children’s Hospital to better understand how medical professionals deal with the difficult mental health issues affecting our young people. Time is a precious asset and Gabbie is always ready to give hers to help others on their journey to better mental health.”
As both Bulldog hockey programs prepare for a Sophie’s Squad double-header this weekend at AMSOIL Arena, you can be assured Hughes has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to help make the event a reality. The UMD team captain will stand in front of the media this week and remind everyone why what she does matters, and ultimately, why she does it in the first place – to honor Sophie Wieland. She’ll tell you that even she’s struggled with mental health, and she’ll be a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for those who don’t even know they might need it. And she will do it with all the passion that has made her one of the best college hockey players in the history of the program and in the history of college hockey as a whole.
“Gabbie has been a tremendous ambassador for Sophie’s Squad and a champion for mental health awareness,” said Matt Lee, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Sophie’s Squad. “Her position as one of the nation’s elite hockey players and the passion she brings to Sophie’s team has helped us further our mission in Divisions I and III athletics. Thanks to Gabbie speaking openly about her own struggles, we believe many other athletes have recognized that it’s okay to be unwell, and the example she sets helps eliminate the stigma associated with seeking help.
A year later, more motivated than ever to make her legacy count, Gabbie Hughes is just beginning. An athlete accomplishing a feat far greater than the limits of any arena.
**The Bulldogs will host a Hockey Hits Back Sophie’s Squad mental health awareness game this Saturday at AMSOIL when UMD takes on St. Thomas University at 3 p.m. For more information on Sophie’s Squad, click here.
To know more about Gabbie Hughes and how her journey as a lawyer came about, click here.
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