The McGuigan family is off to New York to watch the Islanders play the Boston Bruins on Thursday. From left are Abbey, Kim, Mataya, Kim’s brother Kevin Green, Kayden and Kenzie.
©Guardian photo By Jason Malloy
A young Kings County family had been looking forward to Wednesday for weeks.
The McGuigans boarded a flight to New York where they will watch the Islanders play the Boston Bruins in an NHL game tonight.
“Abbey drew a big calendar with all the dates on it and they’ve been (marking) off every day now since we got these tickets,” Kim McGuigan said Wednesday at the Charlottetown Airport.
“It’s exciting. It’s unbelievable.”
Kim’s husband, Brendan, and her father-in-law, Brent McGuigan, were killed in a St. Mary’s Road home on Aug. 20.
Kim and Brendan have four young children: Abbey, 9; Kayden, 7; Mataya, 3 and seven-week-old Kenzie.
On Dec. 11, the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team presented the family with flights to New York and tickets to the game.
The connection between the Panthers and the family goes back to a game UPEI played in Montague in November. Proceeds from the game went to the family and Kayden, a hockey player himself, took part in the pre-game warmup.
“To see him before the game in our dressing room made us all realize why we were there and the importance of the game,” UPEI left-winger Chris Desousa said. “To put a smile on that kid’s face was priceless really.”
The connection remained after the game was over.
The young men found out Kayden had missed the semifinal of the Early Bird tournament to be at the Panthers’ game. When they discovered he played the next morning in the final, the players decided to attend the game to support Kayden.
“We all had a lot of fun,” Desousa said. “It was nice to see a bunch of young kids playing hockey and seeing all the smiles on their face and how much fun they were having (brought) back some memories.”
Kayden’s team from Kings County won the novice AA championship game
The Panthers came up with the idea of trying to raise the funds to send the family to an NHL game and took it to coach Forbes MacPherson.
“Really quick it escalated into reality,” MacPherson recalled. “Our players really grabbed a hold of it and made it happen.”
The players knew the risk, but were willing to cover the costs out of their own pocket to ensure the trip took place.
“It didn’t matter to us. We knew that was a risk and we just . . . wanted to do this for the family,” Desousa explained. “We do stuff within communities but this was by far the coolest thing I’ve been apart of to see the family’s faces after we presented it to them.”
On Dec. 11, the players showed up at the family’s home to make the presentation.
“It was an emotional experience,” said Matt Brenton, a fifth-year Panthers’ right-winger. “It sends chills right up your back knowing you’re doing a good thing.”
The family, still grieving the loss of their beloved father and grandfather, was in shock of the team’s generousity.
“It was unbelievable,” Kim recalled.
“The fact they’re willing to do all of this . . . (they are) an amazing group of guys,” added Kim’s brother Kevin Green.
The Panthers stopped at the airport with jerseys for the family and pyjamas for Kenzie Wednesday morning before heading to Moncton for their game.
Kevin has attended some of the Panthers games with Kayden. He recalled one time walking into the rink and seeing the large posters in front of the glass and Kayden telling his sister each player’s name and calling them his friend.
“Kayden lost his dad, but he gained a lot of good friends,” Kevin said. “It looks to me they’re going to be there for him.”
A special father-son bond
Brendan McGuigan loved watching his son play hockey.
"He'd stand up at the far end of the rink where no one was around him and watch the game play by play," his wife Kim said Wednesday. "When the game was over, him and Kayden would get in the truck and talk about it."
It was their special time together. Kim called her husband a kind-hearted and respected individual.
"Kayden and him have an unbelievable bond through hockey and that's what Kayden misses," Kim said. "These Panthers have brought that back a little bit."
How it became a reality
Once the Panthers had the idea to send the family to New York they had to secure the thousands of dollars to make it a reality.
The Panthers quietly approached some people and businesses to see if they would be willing to support the project.
"It's been unbelievable the support we've got from the community," said coach Forbes MacPherson. "The idea was our players, the energy behind the idea has been our players, but the financial support and commitment, and contribution has come from individuals and members of the business community."
What a coincidence.
The McGuigans will be watching the New York Islanders play the Boston Bruins.
"The Islanders have been Brendan's favourite team for as long as I've known him," said Kim.
She gave him goldfish when they started dating and he named them after Islanders' superstars like Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier.
Brendan was superstitious and would wear his jersey when they played on TV.
"The kids could tell you, he'd stand in front of the TV and march back and forth coaching them," Kim said.
The Bruins happen to be Kayden's favourite squad.
A New York Islanders' defenceman life changed forever when he was 10 years old
Travis Hamonic's father died of a heart attack at the age of 44 in 2000.
Hamonic made his way through minor and junior hockey and now patrols the Islanders' blue-line.
During every Islanders' home game, Hamonic invites a young fan, who has lost a loved one, to the game. It was the subject of an ESPN E:60 documentary, In The Name Of The Father.
Kim McGuigan recently watched it with Kayden and Abbey, the two oldest children.
"You could hear a pin drop in the house," Kim said.
Outpouring of support
The McGuigan family is amazed by the support from the community, the province and region.
"We're so thankful for everyone that's helped out, whether that's a positive thought, or a prayer, or a jar of pickles or a financial contribution," Kevin Green said. "Every single action has made a tremendous difference for the family and we'll never, ever forget what everyone has done."
Aug. 20, 2014 - Brendan and Brent McGuigan killed in St. Mary's Road home.
Aug. 21 - Alfred Guy Vuozzo, 46, charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Nov. 22 - UPEI Panthers men's hockey team plays the Dalhousie Tigers at the Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre in Montague. Seven-year-old Kayden McGuigan takes part in the pre-game skate with Panthers.
Dec. 11 - Team presents family with flights and tickets to an NHL game in New York.
Wednesday - Family leaves for New York.
Thursday - New York Islanders play the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. Atlantic.