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Remembering Andrew Carroll

22 January 2018

There’s no need to use hyperbole or superlatives to describe Andrew Carroll. Simply telling the truth of his accomplishments and demeanor while playing for the Bulldogs says more than any adjective ever could.

Andrew Carroll was the type of player who, through sheer will and determination, far outstripped what might have been the natural talent ceiling for another player with a similar skill set. His dedication to the sport and to his team was evident whether he was following a strict diet (as of his tenure with the Bulldogs, he hadn’t had fast food since something like 8th grade, and he packed his own lunch on road trips – also a prudent financial measure) or throwing up on the bench between shifts due to illness. He was a one-man penalty killing machine. He filled any role he was asked to.

It’s often cliché to say a player loves the game so much he’d play for free – but when Carroll was playing for the then-ECHL Charlotte Checkers, he had a chance to play with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Upon learning of the call-up,

“He said there’s no need to pay me. I just want to go,” [Charlotte Checkers coach Derek] Wilkinson said. “‘Just give me a jersey. He’s got no sense of entitlement whatsoever. He’s a kid you want to root for.”

His nearly unprecedented 3-year captaincy with the Bulldogs is also a testament to his character and dedication. He played a significant role in moving the program forward to where it is today; the improbable playoff run of the 2008-09 Bulldogs (his senior year) set a new standard for Bulldog hockey. Carroll himself set a new standard of pride and workmanship for both players and leaders. Putting on the #20 jersey means something more than it did prior to 2005-06.

Fans have shared anecdotes recounting his acts of kindness, large or small, that impacted their lives or their children’s lives, even a decade later. He was an easy player to root for or look up to. There were likely quite a few youth coaches in the area who could point to his work ethic and his defensive play as virtues for their young players to emulate.

His parents were as much a part of the Bulldog family as he was; years after he graduated and left Duluth, they were often spotted in the crowd at Amsoil Arena (or elsewhere). His family and friends, his teammates, his coaches, and his teams’ support staffs, have lost a person of great consequence. The legacy he left at UMD will endure as long as the program exists, and his giving and kind spirit will survive in others as, per his family, he was an organ donor.

Thank you for the four years you gave to this program, Andrew. I wish your loved ones had been granted forty more. I hope for peace and comfort to those who mourn you.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Puck Swami permalink
    2 February 2018 12:24 pm

    You have captured him well, RWD. Watching Andrew play, even as a fan of another team, you could not help but notice his work ethic and his leadership. UMD has the reputation around the country of being one of the most honest, hard-working teams (along with Air Force) – they never quit and they play the game the way it was intended to be played, and Andrew was emblematic of that selfless style of play that we all admire.

    From what I can tell in reading about this tragedy on the Internet, it looks like Andrew may have been a victim of two brain-related realities that perhaps overlapped. The first dimension is the concussions he suffered over a long hockey career played at a fast and violent level. We’re only recently beginning to understand the many aspects of contact sports-related brain injury, and it’s wonderful that Andrew’s family donated his brain to Boston University’s CTE program for further study. Bravo.

    The second brain dimension is harder to talk about, but mental illness is a very real and present problem in our society, and recent efforts to reduce the stigma of it are long overdue. Hockey culture, in particular, with its combination of Nordic/Canadian reserve and team-first ethos, is one of the worst offenders at hiding signs of players’ mental illness, and as a sport, we need to do better at getting these guys help when they need it.

    I wish his brave family well as they cope with this horrible event.

    As I go to the DU/UMD games this weekend, I will be thinking about Andrew and the UMD family, too.

    • 2 February 2018 12:54 pm

      You’re so right about hockey culture. We see fans who praise guys who play with broken legs or mock players of other sports who sit out with what are perceived as minor injuries. The pressure to play through anything/everything is intense. I also worry about athletes (or non-athletes) who funnel the pressure and pain of mental illness into harder workouts, more restrictive diets, extreme work hours, etc. – what are we as fans praising? At what point is it a work ethic, and at what point is it an unhealthy obsession?

  2. Puck Swami permalink
    3 February 2018 10:43 am

    Ah, the unhealthy obsession.

    Whenever score is kept, there will always be those who decide to go overboard. It’s human nature, especially here in the USA, where winning is what it most valued and rewarded.

    If I’ve learned anything in my 50+ years on this old rock, it is that societies reward what they value most, and the motivated people follow. As anyone becomes more and elite in any endeavor – be it sports, academics, workplace or skills, work ethic becomes the primary controllable variable whether you advance or regress against other similarly talented people.

    That’s the market economy at work.

    Whether we can start valuing our health over risk/reward starts with education, but ultimately, we need to start incenting the right behaviors, and that is a one tough nut…


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