Close up with the Crunch- Eric Neilson is the Man of the Year

Neilson, featured on a promotional billboard in March for the Crunch

Syracuse Crunch standout Eric Neilson is the "Man of the Year"

The Crunch announced that they honored Neilson as such on Thursday, and the award is because of his tireless efforts on the ice.

Neilson, on the ice, is a tough customer that punishes opponents with checks and isn't afraid to drop the gloves.

Off the ice though, he always sports a big smile and was an important part of the Crunch's anti-bullying campaign.

The award, technically called the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year Award means that Neilson is the Crunch's nominee against the other AHL clubs for the overall award.

Below is the Crunch's release on the award-

Syracuse, NY â?? The Syracuse Crunch are proud to announce that Eric Neilson has been named the teamâ??s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Syracuse community during the 2012-13 season.

This is the fifth consecutive year that Neilson has been named the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for his respective team (previous teams include the Peoria Rivermen, Hamilton Bulldogs, San Antonio Rampage and Norfolk Admirals).

After arriving in Syracuse in September, Neilson quickly became a fan favorite. His energetic and outgoing personality has made him a hit at each of his numerous community appearances, including visits to schools, hospitals and Crunch corporate partners.

In February, Neilson took part in anti-bullying talks at Syracuse-area elementary schools. Neilson created special skits to teach students how to identify and prevent bullying. During the anti-bullying campaign Neilson spoke to over 600 children about the importance of standing up for your classmates and bullying prevention.

Neilson is also working closely with the Crunch front office to put together a program he developed for elementary school students that focuses on the importance of healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

In addition to his philanthropic work, Neilson has proven himself as a good sport with various promotions. Most notably, Neilson took part in an advertising campaign which generated national media attention for him gracing a highway billboard urging fans to call the Crunch â??for a good time.â?? Neilson also took part in The Dating Game on 93Q, agreeing to go on a blind date with a lucky caller.

Neilson is now one of 30 finalists for the AHLâ??s 2012-13 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League on April 18.