U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Hockey Commissioners Association announced April 8 that Falcon hockey defenseman and Air Force Academy cadet Dylan Abood earned the 2018 Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award.
“Without question, this is the greatest honor I have ever received,” Abood said. “It’s clear Derek was an incredible person, competitor and teammate. I can’t imagine the terrible sense of loss experienced by his family and friends.”
Hines, an Army hockey athlete (1999-2003) and four-year letter-winner, was killed Sept. 1, 2005 in Baylough, Afghanistan. He was conducting security operations when his unit came under small-arms fire. Wounded by insurgents, Hines continued to fight but was killed in action.
The HCA coordinates the Hines Award. Each of the six hockey conferences nominates a player to a national ballot. From there, sports information directors from each conference vote on a winner based on sportsmanship, competition, intellect, physical condition and work ethic, according to the award’s criteria.
Falcons’ hockey head coach Frank Serratore said Abood will be remembered long after he graduates from the Academy in May for his tenacity and sportsmanship.
“He’s made out of something special,” Serratore said. “He’s a complete champion in the rink.”
Abood, an electrical engineering major, served as flight commander for Cadet Squadron 26. He maintained an average 3.85 GPA and made the Dean’s List every semester.
Last summer, he participated in the Cadet Summer Research Program with MIT to build and test a portable solar power system for disaster relief operations.
During his spare time, Abood assisted families with special-needs children, fed the homeless at the Marion House Soup Kitchen, and helped fire crews restore the Wando Canyon fire burn scar.
On the ice, Abood is a two-time, first-team College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District selection and was named academic all-conference three times. The two-time team captain played 122 career games and recorded 27 career points (4-23-27).
This year, he scored the game-winner against Arizona State, the second game-winner of his career. Abood is a +35 for his career, which means he's been on the ice for 35 team goals, and ranked fourth this season in the conference in blocked shots with 66.
Serratore and assistant hockey coach Joe Doyle went to watch Abood play in 2014.
“No one wanted him because they thought he was too small, but we went to watch him play and he’s taking on guys twice his size in the rink. I asked Joe, ‘Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t take him.’ Joe said, ‘I got nothing.”’
Abood was surprised by Serratore’ s offer to try out for the Academy team.
“He said, ‘you want to talk to me?’ He committed right then,” Serratore said.
Serratore said Abood’s doggedness was more than obvious when he didn’t report an injury during his initial hockey training and Basic Cadet Training but was still recognized as his BCT squadron's "Most Outstanding Basic Trainee."
A check-up after BCT showed the injury to be more severe than Martin-Abood thought, Serratore said.
“The Academy wasn’t delinquent but he failed to report it until after BCT,” he said. “How inspirational is that?”
The athlete said he’ll miss hockey more than anything else at the Academy after he graduates.
“This game, and more importantly the people I’ve meet along the way, mean the world to me,” Abood said. “My four years at the Academy have taught me that the willingness to set aside personal ambition and sacrifice for an ultimate team goal is the underlying key to any successful organization. There are no small roles in championship teams.”
Abood grew up in Centennial, Colorado, and has been a lifelong Falcons hockey fan.
“It was always my dream to attend the Air Force Academy, play Division I Hockey, pursue a degree in engineering and serve in the Air Force,” he said.
Abood said he could not have won the Hines Award without his hockey teammates and coaches, but his teammates singled him too with their unanimous vote for him to be team captain.
“All of his teammates voted for Dylan to be team captain. Every single one of them,” Serratore said. “That’s how much he’s respected. The only person who didn’t vote for him was Dylan. Dylan voted for another player.”
Abood is scheduled to pursue an electrical engineering masters through the Air Force Acquisition Program and become a developmental engineer.
He's the second Falcon to win the award, following Mike Phillipich in 2009.
“I’ll live everyday going forward in a way which honors what this award represents, and to honor Derek’s legacy,” Abood said. “Receiving this award is an absolute honor, but it makes me think far less on my past accomplishments and more on the things I know I can do better.”