There’s only one word that sums up the five-year Ontario Hockey League career of Garrett McFadden: legacy.
With over 300 total games played, compiling over 150 points, all the while cementing himself as one of the greatest captains in Guelph Storm history, that very legacy spills from a lengthy list of on-ice accomplishments, straight through to the significant footprint left off the ice.
McFadden immediately hinted to the big things ahead as a 16-year-old rookie, earning the Storm’s honour of Mike Kelly Humanitarian of the Year on a veteran-filled roster in 2013-14. Fast forward to this past season, McFadden rounded out his major junior career with the award once again, making it the third time in five years McFadden had received the title.
With that, it’s no secret that McFadden has built an undisputed reputation – a reputation that was arguably already cemented last season as the Kincardine, Ontario native became the first member of the Storm to earn the OHL’s Dan Snyder Memorial Award as the 2016-17 Humanitarian of the Year. On top of countless hours spent in the community through the organization’s programs, incredibly, McFadden decided it was time for more. More, to McFadden, meant creating a not-for-profit in support of youth mental health awareness and resources; more meant the beginning of McFadden’s Movement.
Fast forward through over 20 McFadden’s Movement talks with minor hockey teams and local schools, fundraising efforts, and more, McFadden donated $6,000 to mental health resources after just seven months.
Now, following the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, McFadden’s desire for more is once again at the forefront of his efforts.
On March 2, 2018, the Storm captain more than tripled his donation from the previous season, unbelievably presenting $20,000 to mental health resources, with WES for Youth Online (a free youth online counseling service created in memory of McFadden’s family friend, Wes Cameron, lost to suicide) and the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington branch each receiving $10,000.
Overall, McFadden has raised and donated over $26,000 to mental health resources in less than two years.
“He has not only raised a substantial amount of funds for us to be able to continue our services but contributing immensely on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness,” Kayla Piekarz, the Community Relations Coordinator for WES for Youth Online, shared of McFadden’s efforts. “Garrett’s passion to see the change, make the change, and rally others around him to join his Movement is truly inspiring.”
Inspiring, for McFadden, took on a whole new meaning in the Movement’s second season, as the Storm captain decided to open the conversation he began a year prior with his own experiences, and start to truly develop it through the new MM27 Ambassadors program.
For Ratcliffe, following in his captain’s footsteps as an Ambassador was anything but a question.
“He’s been a guy that I’ve looked up to since my first day in Guelph – even since draft day, when I first got selected here,” Ratcliffe said of McFadden. “He’s a guy that’s been a leader ever since he got here and it’s really shown – not only on the ice and in the room, but in the community as well.”
“He’s got a lot of young people that look up to him… I don’t only look up to him as a hockey player, but as a person as well. Everything that he’s done for this community and as a person, the way he takes care of all the younger guys, making sure everyone feels welcome here,” the Philadelphia Flyers prospect continued. “He’s a really great leader and person, and that’s really helped me get to where I am today.”
Moving into the season, the MM27 Ambassadors program then hosted an individual who had a mental health story to share at almost every Storm game, providing the Ambassador of the Game(click to view all Ambassadors of the Game stories) with two tickets, a meeting with McFadden post-game, and the opportunity to be recognized and to share their connection on McFadden’s Movement website. Through over 30 Ambassadors, the program welcomed youth as young as four years old dealing with the emotions of moving to a new school, to as old as individuals in their early 20s and everything in between, opening up about the experiences of losing friends to suicide, long-term health disorders that impacted mental health, personal mental health obstacles, and more.
Logan Peters, a 10-year-old from Shelburne, Ontario, sticks out in particular when it comes to the MM27 Ambassadors program. After losing his older brother to suicide in October 2017, McFadden welcomed Peters as the Ambassador of the Game just over a month later, creating a bond with the Shelburne Wolves Atom Rep player that was incredible to witness.
A few months later, McFadden also welcomed the Wolves team to a game, hosting them all as Ambassadors for supporting teammate, Peters, during the tragic loss of his brother.
Meeting with Ambassadors following each home game – win or lose – McFadden incredibly took on the experiences being shared with him, making them his own through every connection while always putting the person in front of him ahead of everything else, including what the result was on the scoreboard not too long ago.
“He has used his prominent position in the hockey community to help others gain the courage to speak up, talk about their struggles, find and use the resources available and in turn, has helped raise significant amounts of money to help local mental health organizations,” Vickie Mighton, mother of Ambassador of the Game Kelsey Mighton, and a participant in two of McFadden’s talks with the Guelph Jr. Gryphons Girls Midget AA teams over the last two seasons, shared. “Garrett is truly selfless, and treats all the youth he meets with respect and listens to their stories. He knows that everyone’s story is unique, and that everyone is entitled to receive the help they need, in whatever form that is. Garrett symbolizes what it means to be a true advocate.”
Among several fundraising events, including Yoga for McFadden’s Movement early in the season, McFadden also hosted a ‘Warm-Up’ for #BellLetsTalk with Winmar Guelph this past January, generating over 4,000 tweets and retweets from a variety of different people and organizations in support of mental health resources.
Big thank you to Garret McFadden and McFadden's Movement for giving us the opportunity to help spread the word about Mental Health! On January 27th, we had 4,000 tweets and retweets from various supporters to help fundraising efforts for mental health! https://t.co/AycjNzsTS2pic.twitter.com/QzbpsCo5j0
Additionally, McFadden has not only created a foundation for youth of various backgrounds and experiences to discuss mental health openly, the 20-year-old – all while excelling on the ice with a personal best season in 2017-18, continuing to be the backbone of the Storm’s community programs, and attending classes at the University of Guelph – has set a completely new standard for athletes everywhere, developing a sense of responsibility that is hard to describe but humbling to notice, among his teammates and athletes everywhere.
That sense of responsibility is obviously noted through the unwavering support and actions from the likes of Ryan Merkley, Ratcliffe, Schnarr and many other names who created social media campaigns of their own for sizable donations to the Movement, while Storm players rallied to sell 50/50 tickets at the CHL’s Sherwin-Williams Top Prospects game, raising over $6,000 for mental health resources.
“Garrett was an unbelievable captain,” Mason Primeau, a rookie on the 2017-18 Storm roster, said. “He was not only extremely welcoming to myself but to the rest of the young guys coming in, but when he spoke, everyone listened because of the kind of person he is. I couldn’t have asked for a better leader in my first year.”
“[He] was a tremendous leader on and off the ice, and he always went out of his way for everyone,” fellow 2017-18 Storm rookie, Cam Hillis, added. “He made it easy for someone like myself to learn from the example he set every day.”
A lasting impression that filters from today’s next generation, straight through to the men on the bench.
“He’s been able to leave his mark on the City of Guelph through his not-for-profit and countless hours spent volunteering at various events,” Storm Assistant Coach, Luca Caputi, said of McFadden. “He’s left an imprint on our organization through a tough rebuild by making everyone around him a better person, coach, and player. He deserves all great things in life, and there’s no doubt in my mind, that while his junior chapter of life may be over, he will move on to be great at whatever lies ahead.”
Beyond the endless hours of school visits, minor hockey practices, voluntary time spent with young fans, and everything that McFadden’s Movement has accomplished, McFadden can best be summarized through the outpouring of thank-yous, accolades, and emotions felt by fans as the Storm’s No. 27 wrapped up his major junior career this past season.
Undoubtedly a legacy that, although as humble as the person who left it, needs to be recognized. A legacy that began with a 16-year-old OHL Champion to Guelph Storm captain, never wasting an opportunity to leave a lasting moment with a fan through an autograph, picture, friendly conversation, or just a smile; the person who was always first to the rink, school, or minor hockey practice, and the last to leave; and, the person who used the game of hockey not to collect points, wins, or individual awards and recognition, but instead to execute human kindness and generosity.
Once inspired to simply be viewed as more than a hockey player, to control how he could make others feel: Garrett McFadden has done just that and more, leaving a legacy along the way.
Awards & Recognitions
Lou Embro Memorial Award (First Round Pick): 2013
Mike Kelly Humanitarian Award: 2013-14,2016-17, & 2017-18
Winmar Community Hero Award: 2016-17, & 2017-18
Assistant Captain: 2015-16
Fay Scott Memorial Award (for outstanding commitment to education and the community): 2015-16