Mem­o­ries that never die

Is­land’s hockey ‘fam­ily’ en­sures young player won’t be for­got­ten

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Wayne Young In My View Wayne Young is an in­struc­tor in the jour­nal­ism pro­gram at Hol­land Col­lege in Char­lot­te­town.

The best sto­ries of Canada’s na­tional sport of­ten hap­pen off the ice.

They’re mo­ments that last a life­time, like the lit­tle boy in Mon­treal this week who caught a puck tossed over the boards by a mem­ber of his beloved Habs.

The young­ster, clad in Cana­di­ens’ toque and jersey, cra­dled the hockey trea­sure close to his face and hugged it tightly with both hands.

That’s the beauty of this game – the story isn’t al­ways about the per­fect pass, the mirac­u­lous save or the high­light reel goal.

At its heart, hockey is about peo­ple – the play­ers, their par­ents, coaches and peo­ple in the stands. To­gether, they form a hockey ‘fam­ily’ that cel­e­brates vic­to­ries big and small and is also there to help when things go wrong.

Some­thing did go ter­ri­bly wrong in Tig­nish a few weeks ago. Four­teen-year-old Conor Shea was killed in a snow­mo­bile ac­ci­dent near his home.

Conor was as­sis­tant cap­tain of the Ban­tam AA hockey team in Tig­nish. He was de­scribed in a news­pa­per story as a trusted team­mate and a loyal friend. His mother, Tish, told the Jour­nal­Pi­oneer he loved hockey and he loved his friends.

And through hockey, she’s de­ter­mined to keep his mem­ory alive. She hopes to see all mi­nor hockey play­ers in the Tig­nish area wear­ing me­mo­rial jer­seys fea­tur­ing Conor’s pic­ture and num­ber. A jersey fund has been set up to make that hap­pen and its draw­ing sup­port from across the prov­ince.

Conor’s name and num­ber is al­ready fea­tured on his team’s jer­seys. In his hon­our, Hockey P.E.I. cre­ated a hel­met de­cal (#CS16) and sold 3,000 to teams across the prov­ince. The Ban­tam AA pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship has been re­lo­cated to Tig­nish as a fur­ther trib­ute to Conor.

In rinks across the Is­land, play­ers and fans have paused for a mo­ment to re­mem­ber the young player. And in his hon­our, they’ve opened their hearts and wal­lets to sup­port the Tig­nish jersey fund.

Rob New­son of Hockey P.E.I. said in a re­lease he couldn’t imag­ine the heartache and sor­row a fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ences with the loss of a child. But he hopes the strong show of sup­port from across the prov­ince brings the fam­ily some peace and com­fort dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time. Doubt­less, it is. Tish Shea, a hockey vol­un­teer, said in a CBC in­ter­view that Conor’s death hasn’t damp­ened her en­thu­si­asm for the sport.

“The pas­sion for hockey has got­ten even stronger, even stronger,” she said. “The hockey love is un­real – it’s a love un­con­di­tional.”

What a re­mark­able tes­ta­ment to her beloved son and to the sport he and his fam­ily love.

When they’re on the ice, play­ers com­pete to be the best. But when the gear is packed away, they’re re­ally all on the same team – part of a big­ger fam­ily.

The mem­ory of Conor Shea will not be for­got­ten. His im­me­di­ate fam­ily and his ex­tended ‘hockey fam­ily’ across the prov­ince will make sure of that.

An equally last­ing mem­ory will be the warm em­brace given by a hockey com­mu­nity to a griev­ing fam­ily that un­der­stands the game isn’t al­ways about wins and losses on the ice. It’s about mak­ing mem­o­ries and along the way, treat­ing oth­ers with com­pas­sion and re­spect – in good times and in bad.

We might all take a les­son.

Conor Shea

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