Local teen raising funds to send ‘Hockey Man’ to first NHL game

Published: May. 29, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - If you’ve ever driven through the bustling intersection of First Avenue and Collins Road in Cedar Rapids, you may have recognized a gentleman playing hockey. He’s known as the the hockey man to many, but his real name is Matthew Crawford.

Why exactly is he out shooting pucks along the side walk in front of Best Buy? Crawford says it’s because he likes to bring joy to people and brighten their day.

“Just to try to make people happy and give someone something to look forward to,” he explained. “If someone is really down and they want to harm themselves, I’m trying to stop them from doing that. I’m trying to provide something that can help somebody. That way they don’t feel like it’s their last resort,” he added.

Sporting his Cedar Rapids RoughRiders jersey, the 27-year-old said his love for hockey started right in his hometown.

“Probably just the game itself and then the RoughRiders,” said Crawford. “Going to their games and seeing what they do is pretty amazing. Plus, they’ve been around for 20 plus years, so it’s pretty incredible.”

For nearly three years, he’s played hockey on the side of the busy street and has become quite the local celebrity. Between the waves, car horns and even people stopping by to take selfies, he’s caught the eye of many. That includes 13-year-old, Hunter Newhard, who stopped and played hockey with him one day.

“I saw him playing hockey before and then I saw him on TikTok. He was taking pictures with fans and stuff, so I came over and said hi. I asked him to come to my baseball game and he did,” said Newhard.

Through the duo’s interaction, Newhard discovered some news about the big time hockey fan.

“When I learned he hasn’t been to a professional hockey game, I kind of wanted to send him one,” he said.

Since learning this, he set up a GoFundMe me to help send Crawford to a Pittsburgh Penguins game - his favorite team. Newhard is hoping to cover tickets, airfare and his hotel. He’s already helped raise more than $2,000.

“It’s pretty incredible. I didn’t expect someone to do that for me. Just the fact that somebody thought that and then did it, is pretty incredible. It’s a pretty big surprise,” said Crawford.

Newhard’s reason for helping is simple.

“He’s always out here putting smiles on people faces,” he said.

He’s hoping he can return the favor.

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