Balkind remembered at first Brunswick game since death
GREENWICH — Members of the Millbrook and Brunswick boys hockey teams lined up on their blue lines before the game and raised their sticks to the Hartong Rink rafters Wednesday for Teddy Balkind, the St. Luke’s sophomore who died Jan. 6 of injuries he suffered in a game against the Brunswick junior varsity on the same ice.
Support from around the hockey community has helped the Bruins get through a difficult week, though they know others have had a more difficult time.
“Personally it’s been pretty tough on me, and I know a bunch of the other guys it’s been tough on them, and obviously the JV team much worse for them,” said Brunswick co-captain Hank Cleaves, a Dartmouth commit.
“We’ve been saying to each other, we’re all here for each other. It’s OK not to be OK sometimes. That’s what we have to do. We’re opening up to our team, and that’s why we’re a team that’s so close together.”
After a moment of silence with those sticks raised high, it was pretty much a normal prep-school hockey game, speedy, feisty at times. Brunswick came out strong, took a five-goal lead and held on to win 5-3.
“It’s been a tough week, especially for the Balkind family,” Brunswick hockey coach Mike Kennedy said. “We want to offer any support we could. The boys did their best to honor Teddy with his No. 5 on their helmets, then a moment of silence before the game.
“We’re all devastated for what happened, for their family’s tragic, unfathomable loss. We felt it was best to play hockey today in his honor, to keep playing the game he loved, so we did.”
At the other end of the athletic center, Brunswick’s basketball team wore warm-up shirts honoring Balkind before a game with St. Luke’s.
Few varsity players were at the JV game last week, Kennedy said; the varsity didn’t practice that day “for health reasons,” he said (and by the way, this was Brunswick’s first home game with spectators since March 2020).
“We had a group meeting with our team, the JV team, the JV coaches, some alumni, just to offer support,” Kennedy said. “The hockey family, everyone has seen the past five days, is a far-reaching, tight-knit community where everybody looks out for each other and leans on each other.”
Cleaves said the team has heard from alumni like NHLers Kevin Shattenkirk and John Hayden. He called the support unbelievable.
Getting the focus back on the game, “it’s definitely challenging,” Cleaves said, “but I think our group overcame it. We’re proud, honored.”
The Bruins got back on the ice for a just-drop-the-puck practice on Monday. Tuesday’s was a bit more focused in preparation for Wednesday.
“I think it’s harder to be off the ice to be honest,” Kennedy said. “You’re on your phone, hearing from different people, checking in. When you’re on the ice, you try to take your mind off it a little bit — not to take anything away from the tragedy — but I think playing hockey helps, helps the boys.”