Island’s hockey ‘family’ ensures young player won’t be forgotten
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 Journal-Pioneer 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.
Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.