Penn State Hockey

Column: Penn State’s David Goodwin good at hockey, better at being human

It’s an annual occurrence on college campuses, the revolving door that comes with student-athletes.

They walk in one day, and four years later the door is spinning as they exit and others take their place.

You see them experience triumphs and heartache. Hundreds come and go from the Penn State campus each year; some are stars and some toil in near anonymity.

But there are a few who are special, and not just for their athletic prowess.

Some turn out to be even better at being human than being an athlete.

David Goodwin, who’s traveled overseas to volunteer, is one of them — and he’s not too bad playing hockey, either.

He’s going to play his final home games this weekend at Pegula Ice Arena. No. 11 Penn State hosts No. 16 Wisconsin at 7 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday. There will be hugs and tears before Saturday’s opening faceoff, although there are still at least a handful of games left after this weekend — and, who knows? Maybe even a few more than scheduled.

It will be disappointing to not see the five seniors play another home game, but the biggest disappointment will be the departure of someone we all should aspire to be like.

The team captain has been exceptional in games since he was a freshman — his first collegiate game was the very first played in the arena — and will graduate as the program’s all-time scoring leader. He has 121 points on 41 goals and 80 assists. No one else in the brief history of the program has even collected 100 points. His 31 points on eight goals and 23 assists ranks second on the team this year.

But when he’s not wearing skates he’s even more talented, volunteering for a number of events and causes both in State College and back home in St. Louis. He works with special-needs students and the mentally challenged, and he has made a number of trips out of the country to help out in impoverished areas. He has made two trips to Mexico and one each to El Salvador and Nicaragua to lend assistance, and last summer he spent six weeks in Cuba teaching English. The double major in Spanish and economics with a 3.65 GPA then went back to Cuba during the holiday break in the middle of the season, while most of his teammates went home for Christmas.

“He lives his life every single day like that,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He’s a great student every day, he serves his community literally every day, whether he’s here during the season, in State College out of the season, at home in St. Louis or overseas, that’s the way he lives his life.”

He doesn’t do it for attention, he doesn’t feel an obligation, it’s just who he is.

“I feel I have great opportunities to give back,” Goodwin said Monday, which was his 25th birthday. “In a way I feel like I’ve been given a lot in my life, and I feel it’s somewhat of a responsibility to give back to the people I have the opportunity to serve.”

Goodwin isn’t even the first exceptional person who has held the role of captain for the Nittany Lion hockey team. Last year’s leader, David Glen, missed three games during his sophomore season because he donated bone marrow for a woman who was battling leukemia — someone Glen had never met.

The pair has set a pretty high standard for team captains in any year, in any sport, and it leaves an impression.

“It’s become a part of the culture of this program,” Gadowsky said. “That isn’t something I’d say the coaching staff set out to do. You hear the good things about David Glen and David Goodwin, but we can’t tell you, ‘Oh, we knew these guys would be like that.’”

Regardless of how he feels about the attention, the activities have earned him something else pretty special. He is one of five finalists for the annual Hockey Humanitarian Award.

The winner will be announced in early April during the Frozen Four in Chicago — where Goodwin and the rest of the Nittany Lions hope they will still be playing.

Whenever he finishes his last game in blue and white, and a pro career if he wants it, Goodwin will not change who and what he is.

It’s part of what makes him an even better person than a hockey player.

“Regardless of what happens,” Goodwin said, “I know I’m going to continue to do the service that I’ve done so far in my life.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT