Local teen raises money to send ‘Hockey Man’ to first NHL game

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) — If you’ve ever walked through the busy intersection of First Avenue and Collins Road in Cedar Rapids, you might have recognized a gentleman playing hockey. He is known as the hockey man to many, but his real name is Matthew Crawford.

Why exactly is he shooting pucks along the sidewalk in front of Best Buy? Crawford says it’s because he likes to bring people joy 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 depressed and they want to hurt themselves, I try to stop them from doing it. I try to provide something that can help someone. That way they don’t 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 in his hometown.

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

For nearly three years, he played hockey on the busy street side and became a local celebrity. Between waves, car horns and even people stopping to take selfies, it caught the attention of many. That includes 13-year-old Hunter Newhard, who quit and played hockey with him one day.

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

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

“When I found out he hadn’t been to a pro hockey game, I thought I’d send him one,” he said.

Since learning that, he’s set up a GoFundMe me to help send Crawford to a Pittsburgh Penguins game — his favorite team. Newhard hopes to cover tickets, airfare and his hotel. He has already helped raise over $2,000.

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

The reason Newhard helps is simple.

“He’s always here to put smiles on people’s faces,” he said.

He hopes he can return the favor.

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