NORTH YORK, ON - OCTOBER 28: Nick Leshuk #25 of the North York Rangers watches the play on October 28, 2018 at Herbert Carnegie Centennial Arena in North York, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Ray MacAloney / OJHL Images)
March 8, 2019

1:40 PM EST

Nick Leshuk of the North York Rangers is the 2018-19 recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) for his amazing work with Habitat for Humanity. It marked the third straight year a Ranger has earned the honour. Former captain Kyle Clarke won the award the two years prior.

He did not have to look far before embracing charity work last summer.

“One of my best friends lives in a Habitat for Humanity home and seeing the joy it brings his family made me instantly want to join the Habitat family,” he said. “His sense of pride and ownership really touched me.”

Leshuk has volunteered 100 hours with Habitat in Burlington, “with the amazing team” at the Restore retail outlet and on-site” helping build 18 townhome units.

“Being so heavily involved with the Habitat for Humanity organization made me want to get my team involved as well,” he said.

With the okay of North York general manager Claude Desjardins, Leshuk helped co-ordinate a team build day at the Burlington site.

A donation of $2,000 was required. No problem. Leshuk raised more than $3,100 for Habitat.

On a cold Dec. 6, 2018, Rangers players, coaches and their GM helped build houses.

Leshuk also served as a volunteer coach with the minor peewee single A Goulding Park Rangers, affiliates of the Jr. A Rangers, throughout the 2018-19 season.

“I felt so fortunate to be able to give back to my team and help motivate and inspire a younger generation of players just as I had been inspired as a young player myself,” he said.

“I’m so grateful and thankful that my family gave me every opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s all about giving back.”

Leshuk is enrolled in the firefighting program at Humber College, with plans of becoming a first responder.

“Because it is a career that will allow me to give back to the community in one of the biggest ways possible,” he said.

The 21-year-old from Oakville began his Jr. A career with the Milton Icehawks in 2016-17. Traded to North York in 2017, he’s in his second season with the Rangers – his final year of junior eligibility. The Rangers – the eighth-ranked team in Canada – advanced to the second round of the OJHL playoffs Wednesday night.