Refs. Who needs ’em? Who doesn’t hate ’em? Turns out Max and Chris and almost 600 of their best friends think that officials need a little love. The duo built on two of the Musial Awards’ pillars − sportsmanship and a charitable spirit − when they launched Referee Appreciation Night at a New York Islanders game in 2017. That first year, they gathered 27 family and friends, all dressed in referee jerseys, to cheer the officials’ every call − whether the crowd agreed with it or not. They made enough noise and attracted enough attention that the event became an annual happening. The group grew to 120 in 2018, 340 in 2019 and almost 600 in 2020, filling two sections of the Barclays Center and raising money for We Can Kick It, a charity that provides free soccer instruction to children and young adults affected by cancer.

“We like to think that the refs feel our presence there and appreciate, at least once a year, getting a little recognition.” Max Gerschman