Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School senior Nelson Dickson has played in big games before big crowds before. As a captain on both the varsity hockey and lacrosse teams, he has played in large arenas and heard both the cheers and the jeers.
This past year he helped the hockey team to a berth in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament, where they played in front of a large and hostile crowd in Brockton. When he played Pee Wee hockey he even played in the Boston Garden against Nantucket.
But none of that prepared him for the night of March 27, when Dickson appeared before a capacity crowd at TD Garden in between the first and second period of a game between the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Dickson wasn’t there to play hockey, but instead to be recognized as a recipient of the MIAA’s 2012 Sportsmen of the Year award, voted on by the coaches in the Eastern Athletic Conference, and given to athletes who display the most sportsmanship and character both on the playing fields and off.
Dickson admitted he had a lump in his throat as he stepped onto the ice to receive the award. “I actually was the first one to come off the bench and step on the ice – and the whole time I was thinking: don’t fall down, just don’t fall down. There was like 20,000 people there,” he said.
In addition to demonstrating great decorum on the ice and lacrosse field, Dickson also participated in a number of charity events during his years playing sports. He has been active in the hockey team’s Stuff-A-Bus effort, in which a school bus parked at the MV Arena is filled with food donations which are then delivered to the Island Food Pantry.
This past year Dickson and teammate Tyler Araujo helped organize the event. “We went with the guys when they delivered the food and the guy at the food pantry had a huge smile on his face, and it felt really good to give back,” he said. “This community has brought us up since we were in diapers, and I think it’s important to stop every now and then to help out. It’s the least we can do.”