Morgan Tencza (2019)
Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, J.J. Watt and Larry Fitzgerald are all prominent football players who are usually recognized for what they do on the field. They all happen to play in the NFL, but also are recipients of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes players who go above and beyond off the field in giving back to underprivileged youth groups in their communities.
Despite not being on the same national platform, the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey program has another player that’s being recognized for similar ideals. That person is senior forward Grace Markey.
Markey is one of six finalists to be nominated for the Hockey Humanitarian Award. According to the Quinnipiac University athletics website, the award is “celebrating its 26th season and is presented every year to a college hockey player who has made significant contributions to his or her team and community through volunteer efforts.”
Before diving into Markey’s off-ice accomplishments, it’s important to understand how she arrived at Quinnipiac. Markey grew up in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and during her freshman year of high school, things developed rather quickly.
Markey attended a hockey showcase camp in Ontario, Canada, where she met former Quinnipiac assistant coach and director of women’s hockey Paul Nemetz-Carlson. As soon as Markey toured the school, the idea of coming to Quinnipiac soon became a reality.
“I really, really enjoy the small-school aspect,” Markey said. “What drew me in the most is how close you can get to the faculty. My advisor (Deborah Clark), I just saw how much she cared about my development and some of the things that make me who I am today are because of conversations I had with her.”
Speaking of people Markey is close to, enter Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey head coach Cass Turner and assistant coach Amanda Alessi. Both women have been active throughout the entirety of Markey’s journey, and she credits them for helping develop important life skills.
“They majorly shaped me into who I am today,” Markey said. “These tools that they have provided us are going to last a lifetime.”
An example of those “tools” Markey was referring to is dealing with the mental aspects of the game. Alessi and Turner both organized team meetings with Spencer Wood, the mental skills coach. Markey was fond of that because of how long-lasting things like that can be.
They’re things in life you can acquire by learning. For example, you can teach necessary life skills to succeed, you can teach ways to improve yourself on the ice, but what you can’t necessarily teach is a desire to give back to the community.
“I’ve always been very passionate about volunteering,” Markey said. “Me, my brother and my parents would volunteer in soup kitchens during the holidays, cooking meals and such.”
The passion continued in high school, as Markey decided to volunteer at a local emergency room. The pre-med major cited how rewarding it felt to alleviate some of the daily stress of a nurse by doing the little things, such as cleaning the rooms.
When it was time to make the jump to college, the decision to continue volunteering was a no-brainer. Markey found a place called the Whitney Manor Rehabilitation Center and things continued to develop from that point.
“I didn’t know exactly what type of rehabilitation they did there,” Markey said. “I reached out to the director of recreational activities and just asked if they needed any type of volunteer. So I met with her and started volunteering there just by myself.”
Some of the volunteer responsibilities Markey took on were socializing with residents and making sure they were in the proper places. She also helped the director with any necessary paperwork that needed to be completed.
Markey cited that she developed a close relationship with the director as time elapsed and eventually started helping her plan residential events that her whole team attended.
Some of those events included cookie decorating, painting residents’ nails, a coffee social hour and wheelchair square dancing.
Volunteering at the Whitney Manor isn’t the only endeavor Markey took on, as she went back to her high school roots by focusing on soup kitchens.
“We’ve had the team go and serve meals to 200 plus people of the homeless population in New Haven,” Markey said. “So that was really cool.”
Markey is also the president of Q-Core, a student-athlete community service initiative. Starting this year, the senior worked with the vice president of Quinnipiac to create a Zoom mentorship for children of faculty and staff.
She cited how these tough times have created an atmosphere for teachers teaching on Zoom while their kids run around. Markey found a way to harness the energy kids typically have by creating Zoom workouts that she or her teammates lead each week. Markey also partnered with the Quinnipiac School of Education to provide those same children free tutoring.
Besides the work that goes into all these projects, what truly drives Markey to be a marquee woman is the satisfaction people can feel for the things she’s done.
“When I see somebody receive what I’m giving them, I learn from them too,” Markey said. “It’s really honorable to open up to somebody and they tell you their life experiences and hardships. In the process, you have fun, you create memories, especially with your teammates. It creates a deep bond within the teammates too.”