Wolves player creates program to give back to service members

CHICAGO (CBS) — Dominic Franco is in his first season with the Wolves and has been playing in the American Hockey League since 2020 — something he wasn’t sure would happen as early as it did.

“I was super fortunate. I think it was my senior year that they changed the rule and allowed us to play. I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” Franco said.

Franco is an Army West Point graduate, who became the first player to sign a professional hockey contract with the Rochester Americans upon graduating from a military service academy.

“You traditionally go and start your service and then at two-year mark could try to make a decision to go play. It had been a while, and now there’s, I think there’s four of us still playing so it’s awesome just to see guys getting the chance,” Franco said.

The 6 foot 5 inch forward’s talent immediately caught the eye of head coach Bob Nardella.

“They have to realize what type of player they are and Dom knows, I saw that right away and come this summer saw he was a free-agent, actually saw him in some playoff games last year too and said I love the way that kid plays,” said Nardella.

But Dominic is making a difference off the ice as well with Friends of Franco, a program that gives back to military families and service members.

“You can nominate someone on the website and then they pick a game and we have them come out. We give them tickets to the game and after they meet Dom he will come up sign autographs gives them a puck,” Courtney Mahoney said.

“We’ve had active duty members, guardsmen, retired officers enlisted soldiers. Pretty much everyone in the military has a different background, so it’s cool to hear their story. I just thank them for their support and their sacrifices during their service,” Franco said.

The name of the program really is fitting families who come to meet Dominic truly leave as friends of Franco.

“Like so much time, I’m like, ‘Guys at some point we’ve got to go. It’s really cool and it’s neat to see this is someone who had come to games before, and the impact of a the wolves being a place they went to and then to come back and share it with Dominic,” Mahoney said.

“Family time is not the easiest thing when it comes to service. There’s deployments. There’s rotation schedules. There’s training, just giving families and opporunity to get together and spend some time,” Franco said. 

Franco’s time at West Point continues to make an impact in his life.

“You meet a lot of great people and you get a lot of great challenges and everyone comes out better for it. It’s an honor to be a West Point graduate. The Army is a special place and there’s a lot more to it than the military compenent. So it’s good to get the human part of it.”

It’s a feeling that’s been reciprocated at meet-and-greets after Wolves games this season.

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