BUFFALO, N.Y.- By all accounts, Medaille College's Men's Hockey team wouldn't be what it is today without Jeff Gramlich.
"He just leads by example, he just tells us what we have to do, and it's almost like we don't want to let him down," said Simon Fedak. "You don't want to mess up for Jeff because of all he's done."
Fedak and other team members say the Mavericks likely wouldn't be starting the season with a winning record-- 6 and 1. In fact, they might not have a record at all.
"He brought our team pretty much out of debt, and saved our team," said Senior Mike Gruttadauria. "Our team was about to go under at the end of last year because of money problems, and Jeff came in and was able to fix those money problems by looking at the books and getting us new coaches."
A team captain last year, Gramlich graduated in May with a degree in Business Administration; but when he recognized the team he loved was on thin ice, he volunteered to take over as the program's Director. He says the change has been dramatic.
"We're doing really good," said Gramlich, "and a lot of spirits have changed and a lot of people are looking forward to it. And we've got more people, more than ever looking at our hockey program."
"He had a vision," said Head Coach Michael Coad. "He had a core of about twelve kids, that he knew wanted to play hockey, they wanted to be more serious, they wanted to be taken seriously."
In his spare time, Gramlich isn't just keeping the team from slipping. The Marine veteran, who saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is making sure his fellow veterans don't lose their footing either. Once a week, he volunteers at Buffalo City Court, meeting with veterans who have trouble re-adjusting to civilian life, and find themselves in trouble with the law, facing non-violent charges.
"It feels good, because a lot of times we run into it, we both served in the same war, Iraq, maybe in the same year, and I know where they're at because I felt that way too," said Gramlich. "But when you do positive things, then positive things start to happen, so it starts to change your outlook."
Gramlich also serves as an advisor for the campus Student Veterans Alliance. He's helped to plan a benefit for a Marine in Afghanistan, and is working with students to help plan a Veteran's Day parade.
"He's a very giving man, and that is definitely reflected, he's never stopped giving since I met him," said Chad Wainwright, Interim Vice-President of the Student Veterans Organization. "I'm glad to call him a friend."
With some much going on, you might find yourself wondering where Gramlich finds the time for it all.
"In the Marine Corps they teach you to leave something better than you found it," said Gramlich. "You have time to make anything happen. So time, you sacrifice, but it all works out in the end."
Gramlich works with Medaille through AmeriCorps. He is also working on getting his Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership.
Email Sarah Hopkins at Sarah.Hopkins@wgrz.com to see your own "Good Neighbor" get some recognition.