Playing for Jimmy: Grieving Kevin Hayes suits up for Flyers


The tattoo runs alongside Kevin Hayes’ left forearm, a everlasting reminder of what the Philadelphia Flyers centre is lacking, a solemn quote overlaid by a thick, script J for his late brother that serves as an indelible tribute to a bond he believes is not damaged, merely modified.

The inscription Hayes by no means wished to get reads: “Dying leaves a heartache nobody can heal, love leaves a reminiscence nobody can steal.”

At simply 31, former NHL participant Jimmy Hayes, married for 3 years and a father of two younger boys, was discovered useless this summer time inside his household residence. Kevin says his brother was wholesome and pleased. He mentioned he had no cause to consider something suspicious about his brother’s reason behind dying, which has not been decided.

Practically two months later, the thought of beginning a season with out his brother weighs on Kevin.

“We have been finest associates our complete life,” Kevin mentioned.

Via bowling and baseball as children to homecoming clashes at TD Backyard, the Hayes brothers have been as tight as a double knot; Kevin in keeping with huge brother Jimmy, a few children from Boston’s largest neighborhood who attended the identical boarding faculty, identical school and, in the end, performed head-to-head within the NHL.

They have been the athletic anchors of a five-sibling Irish household from Dorchester, and everybody knew celeb — they shared a bloodline with cousins who made the NHL — was destined for the boys.

“You could not go anyplace with out somebody having a Hayes jersey on or one thing on the wall with a Hayes jersey,” Kevin mentioned. “My dad’s enormous in the neighborhood. My mother ran a daycare that everybody’s children go to. It is only a small-knit group, and me and my brother have been actually just like the face of Dorchester.”

The Hayes boys’ largest followers weren’t the hockey zealots out of their working-class neighborhood that cheered them on as they turned stars at Boston Faculty, reasonably, they have been one another.

After they reached the NHL, Kevin lingered throughout warmups on the purple line and waited for Jimmy to glide over and break the ice with a silly joke. The brothers lived collectively, educated collectively, golfed collectively, may very well be the lifetime of the social gathering collectively and have been in one another’s corners, at the same time as Kevin developed right into a top-line centre whereas Jimmy’s profession ended within the minors after elements of seven NHL seasons.

“I feel he accepted we have been completely different gamers, that I used to be somewhat bit extra expert than he was,” mentioned Kevin, within the third season of a US$50 million, seven-year take care of the Philadelphia Flyers. “However I swear there was no extra larger supporter of me than my brother. He informed everybody how good I used to be.”

Jimmy needled Kevin, insisting a nasty recreation was by no means his fault and jokingly blaming a winger or coach Alain Vigneault for a loss. The nice video games, nicely, these have been all Kevin.

“He thought I used to be one of the best participant on the planet,” Kevin mentioned. “I might be speaking about (Connor) McDavid and (Sidney) Crosby. He is like, `No, I am telling you man, you are simply pretty much as good as these guys.’ I am like, `You are nuts.`”

In August, overwhelmed by grief that strikes as the last word value paid for love, Kevin stood behind to a lectern inside a jammed Catholic parish church, steeled his nerves and informed mourners in regards to the man he thought-about his hero.

Now, the 29-year-old Hayes, who will miss Friday’s season opener due to an damage, begins the following chapter of his life with out the beloved ringleader of the Hayes crew.

“Even whenever you’re mad at him for doing one thing silly, he’ll say one thing so dumb that you just suppose he most likely does it on function, the place you are identical to how might you even be mad at him,” Hayes mentioned, a smile forming on the reminiscence.


Shelagh Hayes helped elevate 5 kids, three daughters, and seemingly all the neighborhood with an open-door home that was at all times stuffed with associates and meals. Their father, Kevin Sr., was his sons’ youth baseball and basketball coach, and the type of man who cracked throughout a cameo on an NHL actuality present, “That is my likelihood to be a star!”

The youngsters all grown up, and after each mother and father survived bouts with most cancers, the great occasions saved rolling in Massachusetts.

Take, for instance, a scene from the “Highway to the Winter Traditional” TV collection that opens with Jimmy in a black button-down shirt nearly comically introducing an endless string of teammates, nieces, nephews, uncles, sisters, aunts, and at last, “My brother, Kevin.”

Jimmy pats his brother, carrying solely a long-sleeve T-shirt and black hat, on the shoulder and quips, “Thanks for dressing up.” The nice-natured aggressive spirit rapidly kicked in: Kevin chirps he’ll beat his brother in bowling, basketball and residential run derby.

“Yeah, proper, bro! I am going to provide you with residence run derby, however that is about it,” Jimmy mentioned. “However bowling, bro, I am going to hit you from the left aspect with a NICE hook.”

Jimmy and retired gamers Shane O’Brien and Scottie Upshall hosted the “Missin Curfew” podcast that talked hockey, trash and the NHL’s hottest gossip.

Jimmy, who performed 334 video games for 4 groups together with the Boston Bruins, badgered his little brother close to the commerce deadline for “one factor that is true” contained in the locker room. Hayes joked he might by no means let any chatter slip as a result of the Flyers would clearly know he was feeding info.

Jimmy liked taking pictures the breeze on the podcast, telling tales just like the time his dad profanely ripped him for a purpose celebration shimmy at Boston Faculty, and the way shut the storytelling saved him to the sport in retirement. Kevin was an prompt fan favorite in Philly and received the group award for participant who confirmed probably the most coronary heart, had a beer brewed in his honour and turned the Flyers into contenders in 2020.

“As you develop as a group and do the group bonding stuff, Kevin is a big a part of that for us,” Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk mentioned. “He’s the lifetime of the locker room in that sense. Individuals are likely to gravitate towards him and love being round him.”


The funeral at St. Ann’s Church in Dorchester overflowed with mourners. Youngsters wearing Dorchester Youth Hockey jerseys lined the streets. A bagpiper performed on the steps. The hockey group in any respect ranges confirmed up in droves. Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh paid his respects.

Jimmy’s widow, Kristen, spoke on the service. Kevin choked again tears as he spoke a few time his brother met with a cancer-stricken youngster named Michael McHugh Jr. and introduced him into the Bruins’ locker room.

“Jimmy stayed with Michael, taking photos, giving him sticks, and giving him a bunch of Bruins swag,” Kevin mentioned. “Sadly, Michael handed away only a month later. His dad informed us it was the best evening of his son’s brief life. Michael liked Jimmy and he felt for the primary time that he did not have most cancers that evening. His dad was awestruck by Jimmy’s kindness and was so grateful that Jimmy gave Michael one of many happiest days of his life.”

Kevin, now the massive brother, stayed residence so long as he might together with his and his brother’s households.

“It was robust being in Boston as a result of everybody is aware of us,” he mentioned. “I could not go get espresso or go for a stroll with out somebody awkwardly observing me, eager to express regret or give me a hug. It simply type of obtained draining. As an alternative of simply sitting on my father or mother’s coach or Kristen’s home the entire time, it was good to truly get again and sit up for the season.”

Kevin Hayes is again in Philadelphia and out one other few weeks following stomach surgical procedure. He skates on the rink however misses the FaceTime chats with Jimmy on the 20-minute journey residence. He would not verify his cellphone as a lot nowadays and he is deeply apologetic over the a whole lot and a whole lot of well-meaning texts which have gone unanswered. However he does scroll Kristen’s Instagram account. Her web page is an affectionate, heartbreaking remembrance of pictures and movies of Jimmy Hayes mugging for the digital camera in a “dad” hat and walks on the seaside with their oldest son with the caption, “We would like you again dadda.”

Kevin laughs when he remembers how his brother and Kristen met at a seafood restaurant on the Boston Waterfront and admires how robust she has remained for sons Beau and Mac via the tragedy. His grief nonetheless so uncooked, Kevin says the boys will at all times know the way a lot Jimmy liked them, how a lot he liked his household.

“I misplaced my finest pal and my brother. She misplaced her husband and her father to her children,” Kevin mentioned. “It is robust. I can settle for what occurred, that my brother’s gone and he died. I am 29 years previous and I perceive what dying is. The factor that I am unable to get my head round, the entire, to not get religious, however God. Being mad at God.

“I do not perceive how these two children haven’t got a dad anymore. I am unable to settle for that. I do not suppose I ever will.”

He pauses, and provides, “However I additionally take a look at God sending completely different messages.”

A season after lacking the playoffs, the Flyers added Dorchester native, Hayes household pal and NHL iron man Keith Yandle together with Jimmy’s Boston Faculty roommate, Cam Atkinson. Two guys who knew the Hayes brothers from again within the day now share a line; Yandle and Hayes are roommates.

The Flyers centre referred to as it an indication that each gamers discovered their strategy to Philly within the wake of tragedy.

“We each do not wish to be alone, so we’re ready to hang around day-after-day,” Yandle mentioned. “It is going to be good, too, particularly in the course of the season to have the ability to sit down and watch video games. I feel it’ll be a whole lot of enjoyable. We watch a whole lot of TV, a whole lot of sofa time and a whole lot of laughs.”


Jimmy and Kristen threw a 2-year-old birthday bash for Beau on Aug. 22 and invited everybody they may to have a good time. Jimmy’s previous school teammates confirmed up. Youngsters in diapers made a large number. There was nothing out of the bizarre because the Hayes brothers deliberate a golf outing — “he gave me his huge, two-hand shake,” Kevin mentioned — and mentioned goodbye.

The following morning, Kevin left his residence and made the brief drive for a scheduled exercise when his mom referred to as.

“I awoke within the morning to my mother screaming on the cellphone,” Kevin mentioned. “My mother screamed, `He is useless’ and I knew what she was speaking about.”

Kevin sped again to his brother’s residence and noticed the worst: “I noticed him being wheeled out, and …,” his voice tailing off.

Kevin mentioned Jimmy was pleased in retirement; he liked his function as household man, golfer, podcaster and his little brother’s No. 1 fan.

Kevin wears a bracelet together with his brother’s initials. That tattoo additionally has his brother’s No. 11 and his start and dying dates. Kevin vowed to maintain his brother’s legacy alive via his nephews, and people who liked him finest.

“I do not suppose anybody will fill my brother’s function as a dad or a father or mother,” Kevin mentioned. “We’ll all attempt our hardest. Beau and Mac are actually fortunate that, although it is a sucky state of affairs, they’re actually fortunate for all of the help system they do have.”

Taking part in in his honour this season is not sufficient, Kevin has devoted his life to his brother, dwelling with the unyielding religion that the tight, brotherly bond in life is unbreakable in dying.

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