Ian Edmondson: Blueline staple, breadline anchor

Ian Edmondson Sandwich Ministry
Golden Griffins captain Ian Edmondson leads fellow Canisius students on their weekly Sandwich Ministry mission. (Photo by Joe Van Volkenburg)

Ian Edmondson is at his Sunday best when the bridge to downtown Buffalo connects his leading and listening sides.

The former gets its fill in his role as captain of the Canisius College men’s hockey team and as a student spearhead in the campus ministry. But through the Jesuit school’s Sandwich Ministry, the week’s traditional day of rest yields a refreshing, active change of pace.

The Sandwich Ministry is geared toward feeding Buffalo’s impoverished or otherwise less fortunate residents. As Canisius’ community-service officer on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, Edmondson rose to a senior spot on the signature initiative.

This means overseeing a cluster of 15 students, with almost all of the personnel except Edmondson himself and graduate assistant Alex Tubridy changing each week. It also entails a dramatic turn of the page, punctuating the ever-busy college hockey weekend.

Between the first week of October and the start of March, the 2018-19 Golden Griffins have 12 regional Saturday games. That is, they are home at the HarborCenter or visiting crosstown rival Niagara or regional rival Rochester Institute of Techonology.

Those are all close enough that Edmondson should have no trouble lending his presence to Sunday’s proceedings. It is always a timely diversion when he can make it.

“Participating actually helps you get away from your sport for a few hours and think about some of the bigger things in life,” he told Pucks and Recreation via phone this past week. “You kind of start facing a greater appreciation for your life.”

Ian Edmondson on ice

(Photo courtesy of Canisius Athletics)

One moment almost did not grant Edmondson’s mind a thorough escape from hockey. During one mission when he was a junior, he came across a man ready to accept a beverage at the end of the line. Subsequent small talk began with queries as to the Golden Griffins’ season.

But then the man opened up about his employment struggles and the impact on his family. Dry eyes were all but a lost cause long before the parties dispersed.

“It got pretty emotional,” Edmondson recalled. “For him to share the troubles that he’s having with people that are caring for him, it was pretty moving.”

Coming to Canisius via Toronto, Edmondson brought comparable curriculum vitae of captaincies and community service. He frequented Habitat for Humanity projects with his family and joined fundraisers with his junior team, the St. Michael’s Buzzers. His four-year tenure with the Buzzers culminated with the “C” over his heart in 2014-15.

Upon bestowing the same responsibility to Edmondson this season, Griffins coach Trevor Large stated on the program’s website, in part, “Protecting our culture is everything.”

The broader Canisius culture leaves little separation between student, athlete and servant. Undergraduate enrollment sits at barely below 2,600, and this year’s sports teams combine for 365 players.

That amounts to roughly 14 percent of the student body representing the brand in Division I competition. If the jocks are the true toast, one is rarely left in the dark from the stars’ radiant company.

“It’s all kind of part of the college experience,” Edmondson said. “At Canisius, student-athletes make up a big part of the school.”

The bonus that comes with spreading that celebrity wealth on service missions beyond campus is not lost on Tubridy. “Community members love to see college students with an interest in volunteer work,” he told Pucks and Rec via e-mail. “Especially student-athletes, as they know how busy their schedules are.”

Ian Edmondson reading

Besides the Sandwich Ministry, Edmondson takes time to read to Buffalo-area schoolchildren and raise money for Movember. All of those hours boost the hockey team’s chances of claiming the Canisius Golden Griffin Cup for community service. (Photo courtesy of Canisius Athletics)

If no other aspects of the Canisius culture typify that notion, the Sandwich Ministry does. In any given week, the program’s one constant among student-ministers uses his SAAC connections to enlist eight representatives from a select sport. The rest of the roster consists of non-athletes pursuing required service hours, sometimes as part of a syllabus.

The team convenes at 3 p.m in the campus chapel’s basement, where they devote 45 minutes to assembling the edibles. Ham or peanut butter and jelly are the common fillers, and cookies and hot chocolate are go-to side staples.

Tubridy says the average gathering awaiting the ministry ranges between 30 and 35, though Edmondson estimates 50. With that many recipients, the spread usually proves substantial enough to give everyone a variety pack of four sandwiches. Longer lines can hover around 75 locals, which still leaves an appreciable bounty to go around.

Beyond preparation in the chapel, 75 minutes typically take up the round bus trip and downtown distribution. At least a full hour is thus reserved for precious pleasantries.

Afterward, the bus doubles as the Sandwich Ministry locker room. Edmondson and Tubridy will trade feedback with the week’s team to inform their game plan going forward.

“There’s a lot of similiarities in those two jobs,” Edmondson said of captaining the icers and orchestrating the meal drives. “You have to be very direct that there are certain expecations to be met. Making sure people are showing up on time and things run along smoothly.”

Naturally, out-of-state road trips on the hockey schedule will render Edmondson a healthy scratch on some Sundays. But he always makes a point of establishing the lineup and schedule for those on tap for Tubridy.

“This is an experience that many of these students could easily miss out on if not for Ian’s efforts to coordinate them,” Tubridy remarked.

“This is important for these people’s lives. You need to engage and talk with them. They may be going through a tougher time than you think.” – Ian Edmondson

In that sense, Large could have been speaking for the Sandwich Ministry when he prophesied Edmondson’s on-ice reliability.

“Ian will lead the way as captain,” Large stated in the press release unveiling the Golden Griffins 2018-19 leadership structure, “and he will lean on the rest of the team to lead when they are called upon.”

There is even a friendly gravy-drizzled stake for the hockey team. Edmondson is up for the 2019 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, and his candidacy page alludes to the Golden Griffin Cup. The Canisius sports team that logs the most community-service hours in the academic year earns the bragging rights.

“Ever since my freshman year,” Edmondson said, “we’ve had a very strong push for being involved in the community.”

Then again, with the weekly enlistment of non-skating Griffins for the Sandwich Ministry, he helps his competitors as well. But it is all still in the name of Canisius, and Edmondson is expressly trying to uphold the standards of a man locals have called “Mr. Canisius.”

When Edmondson was a sophomore, senior associate campus minster Joe Van Volkenburg garnered the One Buffalo Community Award. The monthly prize bequeathed by Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula and yields a donation to a charity of the recipient’s choosing.

Before shifting his focus to local high schools, Van Volkenburg worked at Canisius, his alma mater, for almost a quarter-century. During his overlap with Edmondson, he oversaw the Sandwich Ministry and equivalent projects built on burritos and soup.

Edmondson joined fellow pucksters on Van Volkenburg’s shuttle to Buffalo soup kitchens, and learned from him to “be there mentally.” That aspect is the key to ensuring the volunteers nourish psyches as well as stomachs in need.

“This is important for these people’s lives,” Edmondson said. “You need to engage and talk with them. They may be going through a tougher time than you think.”

Al Daniel

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