The 2021-22 NHL season will, unfortunately, be a little different for one Philadelphia Flyer. After losing his older brother Jimmy on Aug. 23, Flyers forward Kevin Hayes will pay tribute to the memory of his brother this season. Jimmy Hayes passed away unexpectedly at his home in Milton, Massachusetts, at 31 years old.
“Like you guys have seen in tributes and podcasts and just so much going around the hockey world, my brother was a special person,” Hayes said during an emotional press conference. “He touched a lot of lives. He really enjoyed life and really enjoyed helping others. It sucks that he’s gone, and it happened way too fast. I’ll never forget him.”
Jimmy was the center of attention wherever he went. Whether it was on the ice or during a Missin Curfew podcast, he put a smile on the face of those around him, especially those closest to him. The endless stories about Jimmy’s impact on the lives of the people around him have meant the most to the Hayes family.
The Pride of Dorchester, MA
The Hayes brothers hail from Dorchester, Massachusetts, where they grew up playing youth hockey together and attended Boston College before entering the NHL. They are icons in their hometown, so Jimmy’s passing hit the community hard. The outpouring of support from the community and around the NHL has helped the family through an extremely difficult time.
“It’s been incredible, the support. When we’re on the ice, it is truly a battle, and we want to win every game, but the hockey community is a really special community, and it goes much further than playing against each other on the ice,” Hayes said. “I was totally taken back with the support that I’ve received and from some of the people that, still to this day, check-in.”
That support has kept the Hayes family motivated to live in memory of Jimmy. The daily check-ins have meant the world to Kevin, especially when they come from his teammates. Claude Giroux, Justin Braun, and Joel Farabee were among his teammates who attended the funeral in Dorchester.
Motivated by the Memory of His Brother
This offseason was already difficult for Hayes, but he also recently suffered an abdominal injury that required surgery. He will be out for six to eight weeks recovering, which should also give him time to heal mentally and physically. Although his brother will not be there to support him during his recovery, the memories of him will always be there.
“It’s going to be weird stepping on the ice for the first time knowing that my brother’s not there,” said Hayes in an interview. “He honestly was my biggest supporter. If I had a bad game, it was AV’s (coach Alain Vigneault’s) fault, not mine. If I wasn’t playing a lot of minutes, he wanted to talk to AV; he wanted to talk to (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher). It’s something that I’ll miss, and it’s something that I think will really push me this year when I’m having bad days or bad games or not playing up to how all the fans want me to. Try to think of my brother, and hopefully, he’ll push me through.”
Sitting out for the next month or so will be difficult, but he will be able to connect with his teammates and try to find the motivation to keep pushing forward.
Support from Close Teammates
New teammates and longtime friends Keith Yandle and Cam Atkinson have been among Hayes’ biggest supporters over the last couple of weeks. They have been close friends since the early days of their careers and having them around has been a huge help.
“He’s probably my best friend in the entire world after my brother, and the fact that he’s living with me is special,” Hayes said. “We obviously thought I’d have some bad days and he’s an awesome dude. … He just makes it a lot easier. Then Cam Atkinson was my brother’s roommate at school, I’ve known Cam for a long time. ‘Brass’ (Derick Brassard), I played with him early in my career [with the Rangers]. He used to come to Boston, be with me and my brother all the time. ‘Reemer’ (James van Riemsdyk) played with my brother for a while. … People are saying that I got all my friends here, but it’s cool how things played out and I think it will make everything a lot easier.”
The next couple of months will not be easy, but Hayes knows how much easier it will be with the support of his teammates, fans, and those around him. Using his brother’s memory as motivation throughout the season is going to be a huge factor as he pushes forward.
Bobby Bader Jr. is a freelance journalist born and raised in Philadelphia, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers since the start of the 2020-21 National Hockey League Season. He currently works with the Hershey Cubs Hockey Club (USPHL Premier) as the team’s media coordinator and serves as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Penn State Harrisburg. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Bobby on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo in articles like this one.