Mourning Hayes dresses up for Flyer season


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The tattoo runs along the left forearm of Kevin Hayes, a lifelong reminder of what the Philadelphia Flyers center is missing, a solemn quote covered in a thick J script for his late brother who serves as a indelible homage to a bond he believes is not broken, simply changed.

The inscription Hayes never wanted to get reads: “Death leaves a sorrow that no one can heal, love leaves a memory that no one can steal.”

At just 31 years old, former NHL player Jimmy Hayes, married for three years and father of two young boys, was found dead this summer in his family home. Kevin says his brother was healthy and happy. He said he had no reason to believe anything suspicious about his brother’s cause of death, which has not been determined.

Almost two months later, the idea of ​​starting a season without his brother hangs over Kevin.

“We’ve been best friends all of our lives,” Kevin said.

From childhood bowling and baseball to back-to-back clashes at TD Garden, the Hayes brothers were as tight as a double knot; Kevin in tune with his big brother Jimmy, two kids from the greater Boston neighborhood who attended the same boarding school, the same college and ultimately played one-on-one in the NHL.

They were part of an Irish family of five siblings from Dorchester, and everyone knew that fame – they shared a bloodline with cousins ​​who made the NHL – was for boys.

They went on to star at Boston College and both reached the NHL. The brothers lived together, trained together, played golf together, could be the life of the party together and were in corners of each other, although Kevin became a prominent center as the career of Jimmy ended in the minors after games of seven seasons in the NHL.

“I think he accepted that we were different players, that I was a little more talented than him,” said Kevin, in season three of a seven-year, $ 50 million contract with the Flyers. . “But I swear there was no bigger supporter of me than my brother. He told everyone how good I was.

In August, Kevin stood behind a pulpit inside a crowded Catholic parish church, hardened his nerves and spoke to mourners about the man he saw as his hero. He choked back tears as he spoke of a time his brother met a child with cancer named Michael McHugh Jr. and brought him into the Bruins’ locker room.

“Jimmy stayed with Michael, taking pictures, giving him sticks and giving him a bunch of Bruins loot,” Kevin said. “Sadly, Michael passed away a month later. His father told us it was the happiest night of his son’s short life. Michael loved Jimmy and he felt for the first time that he had no cancer that night His father marveled at Jimmy’s kindness and was so grateful that Jimmy had given Michael one of the happiest days of his life.

Kevin, now the big brother, stayed at home as long as possible with his family and that of his brother’s widow, Kristen.

“It was tough being in Boston because everyone knows us,” he said. “I couldn’t go for coffee or take a walk without someone looking at me awkwardly, apologizing or hugging me. It just got exhausting. Instead of sitting in my parents’ coach or Kristen’s house all the time, it was nice to come back and look forward to the season.

Kevin is back in Philadelphia and still a few weeks after abdominal surgery. He skates at the ice rink but misses FaceTime conversations with Jimmy during the 20 minute ride home. He admires how strong Kristen remained for her sons Beau and Mac during the tragedy.

“I lost my best friend and my brother. She lost her husband and her father to her children, ”said Kevin. “It’s hard. I can accept what happened, that my brother is gone and is dead. I’m 29 and I understand what death is. The thing that I don’t happen. not to understand, all, not to become spiritual, but God, to be angry with God.

“I don’t understand how these two children no longer have a father. I can’t accept this. I don’t think I ever will.

He pauses and adds, “But I also watch God send different messages. “

A season after missing the playoffs, the Flyers have added Keith Yandle, Dorchester native, Hayes family friend and NHL iron man, as well as Jimmy’s Boston College roommate Cam Atkinson. Two guys who knew the Hayes brothers at the time now share a line; Yandle and Hayes are roommates.

The Flyers center called this a sign that both players have found their way to Philly in the wake of the tragedy.

“We both don’t like to be alone, so we can hang out every day,” Yandle said. “It will be good too, especially during the season, to be able to sit down and watch the games. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We watch a lot of television, a lot of time on the couch, and a lot of laughter. “

Kevin is a fan favorite in Philly and has won the team award for the player who has shown the most heart, had a beer brewed in his honor and made the Flyers contenders in 2020.

“As you develop as a team and bond as a team, Kevin is a big part of that for us,” said Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk. “It is the life of the locker room in that sense. People tend to gravitate towards him and like to be around him.

Kevin wears a bracelet with his brother’s initials. This tattoo also has his brother’s number 11 and his birth and death dates. Kevin vowed to keep his brother’s legacy alive through his nephews and those who loved him most.

Playing in his honor this season isn’t enough: Kevin has dedicated his life to his brother, living with the unwavering faith that the close, brotherly bond in life is unbreakable in death.


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