Flyers forward Kevin Hayes stepped in front of the media on Friday for the first time since his brother, Jimmy, suddenly passed away at the age of 31 this summer.
Even though he admitted that he was dreading the conversation, he wanted to take the time and thank the people within the hockey community that have helped him and his family.
"When we're on the ice, it's truly a battle. We want to win every game. But the hockey community is a really special community. It goes much further than playing against each other on the ice. I was taken aback by the support that I received," the Philadelphia Flyers center said.
"It was tough being there. No one really knew how to act. You couldn't even go get coffee without someone coming up or awkwardly holding the door for me or wanting to buy me coffee. It just got repetitive. No one really knows how to handle what happened. There's no playbook on how to handle death. It was really nice to come back here and get into a routine."
Former NHLer Jimmy Hayes died at his home in Milton, Mass., on Aug. 23, and is survived by his wife Kristen and his two sons, two-year-old Beau and three-month-old Mac. He appeared in 334 NHL games over seven years with four different organizations, including his hometown Bruins.
Over the last two months, Kevin Hayes has been traveling between Philadelphia and his hometown of Boston to visit with family and support Kristen and his nephews.
The 29-year-old forward is currently recovering from surgery to repair an abdominal injury and will be out at least six weeks for the Flyers, but when he steps back on the ice, he will be doing it in the memory of his brother and his biggest supporter.
"My brother was a special person. He touched a lot of lives," Hayes said. "He really enjoyed life and really enjoyed helping others. It sucks that he's gone. It happened way too fast.
"It's going to be weird stepping on the ice for the first time knowing that my brother's not there. When I'm having bad days or bad games or not playing up to [what] all the fans want me to here, I'll just think of my brother, and hopefully he'll push me through."
As Hayes continues to grieve his brother’s death, and rely on some of his support system, the Flyers just so happened to bring some of his close friends in the hockey world to become his newest teammates. Journeyman defenseman Keith Yandle, a fellow Boston native, was signed by Philadelphia this summer and is here for whatever Kevin needs.
“I think it’s obviously a good thing that I’m able to be here for him,” Yandle said on Friday. “He’s there for me, too. So it’s one of those things where, we’re both guys that we don’t like to be alone, and we’re able to hang out every day. It’ll be good too, especially during the season — you sit down and watch games, breaking down games. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Hayes played in 55 contests for the Flyers last season, scoring 12 goals and 31 points.