Winning a big game is the ultimate feeling for the Syracuse Crunch on the ice, but the best feeling off the ice for Crunch stars Tyler Johnson and J.P Cote is making a difference in Central New York elementary schools. Both players told a group of fifth graders at Bellevue Elementary School that they were affected by bullying when they were young kids, and are hoping to get the message across that bullying needs to be stopped.
"We just hope to get across that bullying is something you don't want to do," says Johnson, "you regret it later in life
and at the same time you don't want to be a by-standard or a spectator. You want to if you see it, go help out and hopefully try to make everyone nicer."
"The main thing we are trying to say is to tell someone even if you are outside the bully," says Cote, "bullying is to just talk to someone to make it stop."
The Kids of Bellev
Elementary had lots of questions for the players, and some even admitted to being bullied or witnessing bullying
among their peers
. There were also tough questions for the Crunch who play a sport where bullying often takes place during the game itself.
"We have the team to help us out,
says Cote, "if anyone goes after Tyler Johnson, I'll be the first one that to protect him and ya know step in hopefully. We're really a close family and that's the way anyone has to look at it."
The Crunch players asked for
a promise on paper, asking the kids to sign their names, a promise to stomp out bullying. Johnson stressed to the students that they had to mean it, and they were rewarded with free tickets to see the Crunch play in person.
"It's not only coming from teachers, but professional people," said one student, "And they are trying to tell us to not bully because it's not cool and at the end of the day, the people you bully might become your best friend in the long run."