Playing for Jimmy: Grieving Hayes suits up for Flyers season

PHILADELPHIA -- This tattoo runs along Kevin Hayes’ left forearm. It is a permanent reminder that the Philadelphia Flyers center is missing.

Playing for Jimmy: Grieving Hayes suits up for Flyers season

PHILADELPHIA -- This tattoo runs along Kevin Hayes’ left forearm. It is a permanent reminder that the Philadelphia Flyers center is missing. A solemn quote is overlaid with a thick script J for his brother. It serves as an indelible memorial to a bond he believes hasn't been broken but is only being strengthened.

Hayes didn't want to be buried with this inscription: "Death leaves behind a heartache that no one can heal, but love leaves behind a memory that no one can steal."

Jimmy Hayes, a former NHL player and father to two young boys, was just 31 years old when he was discovered dead in his home. Kevin claims that his brother is healthy and happy. He stated that he didn't have any reason to suspect anything about the cause of his brother's death. However, it has not been established.

Kevin is almost two months later and the thought of starting a new season without his brother weighs heavily on him.

Kevin stated, "We were best friends all our lives."

The Hayes brothers, from bowling and baseball as children to homecoming clashes in TD Garden, were as close as a double knot. Kevin was in step with his big brother Jimmy, a pair of Boston-area kids who went to the same boarding school and college and played head-tohead in the NHL.

They were the anchors of a Dorchester five-sibling Irish Irish family. Everyone knew them as celebrities because they had a common bloodline with NHL-winning cousins.

Kevin stated, "You can't travel anywhere without somebody wearing a Hayes shirt or having something on the wall that has a Hayes Jersey." "My dad is a huge figure in the community. My mom owned a daycare where all the children went. It's a small, tight-knit community and me and my brother were like Dorchester.

The Hayes boys were more than the hockey-crazy kids from their working-class community who cheered them on when they became Boston College stars. They were actually each other.

Kevin waited at the red line for Jimmy to break the ice and then he stayed there while they reached the NHL. They were the best of friends, played together, had fun together, and became the life of any party.

Kevin said that he believed he understood we were different players and that I was more skilled than him. This was Kevin's third season on a seven-year, $50 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. My brother was my biggest supporter, and I swear he is the best. He said how great I was to everyone.

Jimmy scolded Kevin for insisting that a bad game wasn't his fault. He also joked about blaming Alain Vigneault, a coach or a winger, for the loss. Kevin was only good in the good games.

Kevin stated, "He believed I was the greatest player in the world." "I would be talking (Connor McDavid) and (Sidney Crosby." He says, "No, I'm telling ya man, you're just like those guys."

Kevin, overcome by grief over the death of his love, stood in August behind a Catholic parish church lectern. He gathered his courage and shared his story with mourners.

The 29-year-old Hayes will be missing Friday's season opener due to an injury. He now begins the next chapter in his life without Hayes' beloved leader.

Hayes smiled at the memory, even though he may be mad at you for being so stupid.

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Shelagh Hayes raised five children, three girls, and apparently the entire neighborhood. There was an open-door house with friends and food that was always full. Kevin Sr. was their father and youth basketball and baseball coach. He cracked when he appeared on an NHL reality TV show. "This is my chance be a star!"

All the kids are grown up and, after both parents were diagnosed with cancer, life continued in Massachusetts.

Consider, for instance, the opening scene of the TV series "Road to the Winter Classic". Jimmy is wearing a black button-down shirt and introduces a string of nieces, nephews. Uncles, sisters, aunts, aunts, teammates, and, finally, "My brother Kevin."

Jimmy pats his brother on the shoulder, wearing only a T-shirt and a black hat. He then quips that he will beat his brother at bowling, basketball, and home run derby.

"Yeah, right bro! Jimmy stated, "I'll give your home run derby but that's it." "But, bro, bowling, I'll hit your left side with a NICE Hook."

Jimmy, retired players Shane O'Brien (retired) and Scottie upshall hosted "Missin Curfew", a podcast that discussed hockey, trash and the NHL's most recent gossip.

Jimmy, who played 334 games with four teams, including the Boston Bruins and the Boston Bruins. He pressed his brother for "one truth" in the locker room, just before the trade deadline. Hayes joked that he couldn't let any chatter go because the Flyers would know he was feeding them information.

Jimmy enjoyed shooting the breeze on the podcast and telling stories about his dad who profanely ripped Jimmy for a Boston College goal celebration shimmy. He also loved how the storytelling kept him interested in the game even after he retired. Kevin became a fan favorite in Philly, winning the team award for player with the most heart. A beer was brewed in his honour and the Flyers were contenders in 2020.

Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk stated, "As you build as a team and do team bonding stuff," He is the life and soul of the locker room. He is a magnet for people and they love him.

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Overflowing with mourners, the funeral at St. Ann's Church was held in Dorchester. Children wore Dorchester Youth Hockey jerseys and walked the streets. On the steps, a bagpiper performed. All levels of hockey were represented at the event. Marty Walsh, former Boston Mayor, paid his respects.

Kristen, Jimmy's widow, spoke at the ceremony. Kevin choked back tears while he talked about how his brother met a child with cancer named Michael McHugh Jr., and then brought him into the locker room of the Bruins.

Kevin stated that Jimmy spent time with Michael taking photos, giving him sticks and giving him lots of Bruins swag. Michael died a month later. It was, according to his dad, the most memorable night in his short life. Jimmy was a friend to Michael and he realized that he wasn't dying from cancer that night. Jimmy's kindness amazed his dad and he was so thankful that Jimmy gave Michael the best day of his life.

Kevin, now the big bro, stayed at home as long as possible with his and his brothers' families.

He said, "It was difficult being in Boston because everybody knows us." I couldn't walk or go to coffee without being accosted by someone who wanted to apologize or give me a hug. It was just too draining. It was refreshing to be able to look forward to the season instead of sitting at Kristen or my parents' house.

Kevin Hayes has returned to Philadelphia after abdominal surgery and will be back within a few more weeks. He skates at the rink, but misses FaceTime conversations with Jimmy on the 20-minute drive home. He isn't checking his phone as often these days, and he's deeply sorry for the many well-meaning messages that went unanswered. He does check Kristen's Instagram. Her Instagram page contains photos and videos of Jimmy Hayes walking on the beach in a "dad' hat, and is a touching, heartbreaking reminder of their son.

Kevin laughs as he recalls how Kristen and his brother met at a Boston Waterfront seafood restaurant. He also admires Kristen's strength for Beau and Mac during the tragedy. Kevin said that his grief is still raw and that the boys will always remember how Jimmy loved them and how much he loved all of his family.

"I lost my best friend, and my brother." Kevin stated that she lost her husband and father to her children. It's hard. It's hard to accept that my brother has died and my brother is gone. I am 29 years old, and I know what death means. The only thing I have trouble understanding is the whole. Not to get spiritual but God. I am mad at God.

"I don’t get how these two children don’t have a father anymore. That is unacceptable to me. "I don't believe I will ever accept that."

He stops and says, "But, I also look at God sending other messages."

After missing the playoffs for the second season, the Flyers added Keith Yandle, a Dorchester native and NHL iron man, to their roster along with Jimmy's Boston College roommate Cam Atkinson. Yandle and Hayes share a common line.

It was a sign that both the Flyers and the Flyers' center had found their way to Philly after tragedy, according to The Flyers Center.

Yandle stated that they don't both like being alone so they can meet up every day. It will be great, especially during the season, to be able sit down and watch some games. It will be great fun. We watch a lot TV, lots of couch time, and lots of laughs.

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Jimmy and Kristen hosted a Beau 2-year-old birthday party on August 22. They invited all who could. Jimmy's college friends showed up. Children in diapers made a mess. The Hayes brothers had planned a golf trip -- Kevin gave him his big, two-hand shake and then said goodbye.

Kevin left home the next morning and drove to his scheduled workout, when his mother called.

Kevin stated, "I woke up in morning to my mother screaming on the telephone." "My mom screamed "He's dead" and I understood what she was referring to."

Kevin drove back to his brother's house and saw the worst: "I witnessed him being wheeled away, and ...," he was losing his voice."

Kevin stated that Jimmy was happy in retirement. He loved his roles as a father, grandfather, golfer, podcaster, and little brother's No. 1.

Kevin is wearing a bracelet that bears his brother's initials. The tattoo also includes his brother's number. 11, his birth and death dates. Kevin promised to preserve his brother's legacy through his nephews and those who loved him most.

Kevin stated, "I don’t believe anyone will take on the role of my brother as a father or parent." "We will all do our best. Beau and Mac are truly fortunate that, even though their situation is difficult, they have a great support system.

As if playing in his memory this season wasn't enough, Kevin has dedicated himself to his brother and lives with the conviction that the close brotherhood in life will be unbreakable in the end.

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