Capitals President Dick Patrick laughed and admitted that typically he likes to keep a low profile, staying behind the scenes in the operation of an NHL team and the Monumental Sports and Entertainment ownership group. But in this case he doesn’t mind making an exception.

On Tuesday the NHL named Patrick as a recipient of the 2012 Lester Patrick Trophy, an award that honors his grandfather’s legacy as one of hockey’s most prominent builders and innovators and recognizes “outstanding service to hockey in the United States.”

When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called to share the news of the honor with Patrick, he was surprised. Although he has guided the Capitals since the 1982-83 season, is a former chairman of the NHL Finance Committee, and promoted the construction of the Capitals’ practice facilities in Arlington, among other distinctions, Patrick said he didn’t necessarily think of himself as consciously working to grow the sport. He just stayed involved in the game he loved.

“I’ve always said that hockey’s a different sport,” Patrick said in a phone interview. “People who play hockey, they’re always going to be hockey fans, get involved with it or follow it to some level the rest of their lives. High school, college, wherever you’re at in life you can go to a pickup game and feel a connection with people.

“It’s a sport that really connects people to each other and I’ve seen it grow here,” he continued. “There are people playing at Kettler in the adult leagues at horrendous hours of the morning when they can get ice, just because the game draws people in. While I was always involved -- I coached teams here when my son was growing up and things like that -- you just get into it. You don’t really look at it like, ‘Oh, I want to make a contribution.’ You just love the sport and want to help share it with others.”

A grandson of Lester Patrick and son of Muzz Patrick, a former Rangers player, coach and general manager, Patrick followed in his family’s footsteps when he joined the Capitals’ front office 30 years ago. This honor follows in the family tradition as well, considering that his uncle Lynn Patrick won the award in 1989 and his cousin Craig Patrick did so in 2000.

“No one is more deserving of this award than Dick,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog Ted’s Take. “He is so low key and humble – he won’t even tell anyone about this honor, so I have to on my blog! To win an award named after a family member is truly special.”

Patrick, along with fellow 2012 Lester Patrick Trophy recipient Bob Chase/Wallenstein, the longtime broadcaster of the Fort Wayne Komets, will receive the honor on Oct. 15 at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction in Dallas.