Angela Mastrangelo couldn’t have known buying her son, Jason Nold, goaltending equipment would months later result in one of the most heartwarming gestures she’s ever experienced, just as Eric Vogel couldn’t have known he was about to meet and later bring an incredible amount of joy to two complete strangers.
Mastrangelo, 38, and Vogel, 26, met in October when Nold was looking to upgrade his goalie gear. He had begun playing the position in May, but the then-13-year-old was already outgrowing some of his equipment. Vogel, a goaltending specialist at Total Hockey and former FHL goaltender, helped his two customers and, when they parted ways, he handed his personal number to Mastrangelo in case she or her son had any questions. Two weeks later, she got in touch.
“She said he needs help with some goalie stuff and this and that,” Vogel recalled. “I said maybe I’d see (Jason) and his father at the rink, and she said, ‘Well, there’s a story behind that.’”
When Nold was three, his father passed away in a motorcycle accident. Mastrangelo, a veterinary nurse, was raising her son alone. Mastrangelo opened up to Vogel and so did Nold, who had been speaking with his now-mentor via Facebook. It was through a series of messages Vogel learned about Nold’s battle with an autoimmune disorder, pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS). The disorder’s attack on Nold’s system left him struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Nold’s fight with his disorders have made learning difficult at times, but Mastrangelo said, through hockey, her son has found a way to turn his scholastic performance around. He even made honor roll this past year while playing for three separate hockey teams. Part of Nold’s turnaround in the classroom may come from the focus he’s shown on ice.
“I really think when he puts on that goalie helmet he becomes someone else out there,” Mastrangelo said. “He can push it away and focus on what he’s doing. That, to me, has been more life-saving than anything else we’ve been through.”
Vogel admitted there are times he can tell Nold’s not paying complete attention, but once they hit the ice together Nold is hanging on Vogel’s every word. “On the ice, he listens,” Vogel said. “He has such a passion for the game, too. That’s why when I first met him, I was like, ‘Wow, this kid reminds me of me at that age.’ ”
As his time around Nold and Mastrangelo wore on, Vogel began to help the young goaltender out more and more. Vogel gave Nold pointers, practiced with him and was always there to lend an ear when Nold needed it. Mastrangelo even began to film Nold’s movements during games and send them to Vogel, who will then supply Nold with advice.
“The stuff I’m showing him on ice, he’s really taking it to heart and he’s moving a lot better — side to side really well, coming out further,” Vogel said. “Everything that I’m trying to help him out with, he’s really taking to heart. I see huge improvement from the first time I was on the ice with him to now.”
With all that Vogel has shown Nold, though, he still felt he could do more. Vogel’s generosity has been documented by THN before, but his relationship with Mastrangelo and Nold, and his want to do something for them, led to him having a sleepless night this past November. It was then Vogel decided he had to find a way to further help Mastrangelo and Nold.
Vogel took to GGSU, a Facebook community for goaltenders, and told Nold and Mastrangelo’s story as best he could. Vogel asked for donations and any help he could get for two people he had come to care for. He thought he would raise maybe $50 and potentially land a piece of gear for Nold, but was shocked when roughly 300 people donated a combined $1530. Maltese Sports caught wind of the story and chipped in with a custom neck guard for Nold and Bobby Ackerman, through his foundation This Is For Madison, donated several pieces of gear.
Vogel’s big reveal came in December, one week before Christmas, after he set up an open skate for Nold. It was at the skate Vogel brought Mastrangelo out on the ice, presented her with a card and Nold with the gear. Vogel said Mastrangelo was in shock — she jumped up, hugged Vogel and thanked him as best she could. Mastrangelo still can’t find the right way to put into words what the gesture meant. She said she’s moved by Vogel’s compassion, understanding and ability to help out two people who were only months ago complete strangers.
“There are no words to say thank you, not only to him but to strangers around the world who helped me through the GGSU community,” Mastrangelo said. “It’s overwhelming and very, very humbling. How do you say thank you? You can’t.”
This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in The Hockey News magazine.