CHARRONâ€™S LEGACY CONTINUES TO BE AN INSPIRATION OF STRENGTH & COURAGE
â€˜Sharkyâ€™ to be honored tonight at 62nd annual Press Radio-Club Day of Champions Dinner
By Warren Kosel
He was a Calder Cup champion, a two-time team MVP and an AHL All-Star. He was a fan-favorite, the face of the franchise, the heart-and-soul and the teamâ€™s leading scorer in the 1995-96 American Hockey League season. He had the speed and agility no one could match, the hands that dazzled those who watched him and the maneuvers that left the opposing defensemen both bewildered and impressed at the same time. He showed what it meant to be a Rochester American.
But Craig Charron was more than just a hockey player. He was a humanitarian, a devoted community member and a Rochesterian. More importantly, he was a husband, a father of four and a good friend. These are the qualities that truly defined what Charron was â€“ a great person.
â€œHe was such an unbelievable husband and father,â€ said Jody Gage, a teammate of Charron in 1995-96 and the Amerksâ€™ Director of Player Personnel. â€œI donâ€™t think I ever saw a better stick-handler. He was an unbelievable talent, but more importantly, he was such a great person. He always had such a positive attitude.â€
The Amerksâ€™ Hall of Famer can now add Inspiration to his list of career accomplishments, because simply, thatâ€™s what he is. Charronâ€™s legacy will be honored tonight at the 62nd annual Rochester Press-Radio Club Day of Champions Dinner as the 2011 winner of the Christine Wagner-Welch Inspiration Award, one that he will accept posthumously, along with his wife, Wendy.
â€œI would say kindness sums him up,â€ said Wendy, who met Craig while attending the University of Lowell-UMass. â€œHe was very special and there was something really kind about him. Everyone that knew Craig knew how great of a man he was. This is just another testament to his character and his lasting effect on people.â€
Diagnosed in January 2010 with an advanced stage of stomach cancer, â€œSharkyâ€ courageously fought the battle up until his death on October 19, 2010 when the disease finally won, leaving behind his four children, Jackson, 14; Nicholas, 12; Hunter, 9; and Emma, 1, who were all at his side to say goodbye to the father they loved. Charron was just 42 years old.
Even in his final minutes, knowing it would be the last time he could see his kids, Charron still had a smile on his face. It was a trademark customary to â€œSharkyâ€ that only those closest to him came to love and appreciate. It was a genuine sign of comfort that he was there and something those of us left behind can remember him by.
â€œEvery time you ran into him, he had the biggest smile on his face, a big ear-to-ear grin,â€ said Amerks Assistant Coach Jason Cipolla, who also had the privilege of playing alongside Charron for a season. â€œYou just always sensed the warmth and friendliness coming off of him every time you saw him. Itâ€™s what he stood for. Itâ€™s what he was all about.â€
Charron was the 44th member of the Amerks Hall of Fame, having played in 335 career games (1995-98, 2000-02) with Rochester. â€œSharkyâ€ was a two-time winner of the teamâ€™s MVP award, scoring title, McCulloch Trophy for community service, Fairand Oâ€™Neill Award for sportsmanship and the Booster Clubâ€™s Most Popular Player award. In 1995-96, he earned team MVP honors and helped the Amerks win their sixth Calder Cup.
â€œCraig was a leader and a champion both on and off the ice everywhere he played,â€ said David Andrews, AHL President and CEO. â€œHis courage and determination were admirable, and the entire American Hockey League lost a true ambassador to the game.â€
Charron spent the majority of his career in the American Hockey League, playing in 490 games for teams in Fredericton, Cornwall, Lowell, St. Johnâ€™s and Rochester. In eight full AHL seasons, he was named to three AHL All-Star Games and his teams made the playoffs each season. In 1997-98, he was also named the AHLâ€™s Fred T. Hunt Award winner, which is given annually to the player that best exemplifies sportsmanship, determination, and dedication to hockey.
Charron was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1989 out of Division I UMass-Lowell. His career spanned 12 seasons from 1990 to 2002, as he played in 726 professional games. His travels took him to teams in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League, ECHL and Europe. Charron was a two-time member of the U.S. National Team and represented the United States in the World Championships in 1995 and 1998.Â His USA Hockey bloodlines run deep, as he is the nephew of famed â€œMiracle on Iceâ€ goaltender Jim Craig.
Above all, Charron was and continues to be an inspiration to those whose lives he touched. He demonstrated strength and courage through some of the worst times for himself and his family, yet he always did it with a smile on his face. His adoration for his family was something to be admired and his hopeful outlook provided assurance that no matter what happened he was going to be just fine.
Rochester lost a true hero that day, but his spirit will always live on through his inspiring legacy.
Thanks for the memories, â€œSharky.â€