“He was honestly my biggest supporter,” Kevin Hayes speaks out for the first time

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - MARCH 20: Kevin Hayes #13 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the New York Islanders during their game at Nassau Coliseum on March 20, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - MARCH 20: Kevin Hayes #13 of the Philadelphia Flyers in action against the New York Islanders during their game at Nassau Coliseum on March 20, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Kevin Hayes did not have to speak with members of the media. Everyone would have understood if he was not ready to do so. But on Tuesday morning, just a month since the tragedy, he took to the podium for the first time since the loss of his brother, Jimmy.

"“My brother was a special person. He touched a lot of lives. He really enjoyed life and enjoyed helping others. It sucks that he’s gone. It happened way too fast. I’ll never forget him, obviously.”"

Hayes was blown away by the support that the hockey community showed, and has continued to show him and his family during this time. His fellow Flyers teammates and players from all around the league have reached out. Former teammates such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh, as well as a few people that took Hayes by surprise. Sidney Crosby and Gabriel Landeskog were a few others that have been in contact with him.

It just goes to show that through it all and when it matters most, the hockey community knows how to come together to support one of its own.

"“When we’re out on the ice, it is truly a battle. And 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 totally taken back with the support that I received. Some of the people that still to this day check in. “"

It’s going to be tough for Hayes to step on the ice for the first time without his brother there, no doubt about that. He was his biggest supporter out there. If Kevin had a bad game, Jimmy would say that it wasn’t his fault, it was Vigneault’s. If the ice time wasn’t there, Jimmy wanted to speak with Vigneault and Chuck about it.

Being back in the city has been helpful. Things were going well when he first got back, skating with teammates and just being around them in general. It all started a few weeks before camp. Hayes described it initially as a normal thing that hockey players go through. Resting up was helpful and he felt good coming back onto the ice this past Monday. But on a breakaway attempt is when he felt it all come apart.

The injury and surgery were similar to the initial one that Hayes had back in May. In fact, they even went through the same scar as well. After the second procedure, Vigneault had said that Hayes wanted to be around the team while he recovers. It will make things a bit easier as he navigates a time in his life that there is no set of guidelines or even a playbook for.

"“I asked AV if I could kind of be here around the team as much as I can. Doing my rehab when they’re on the ice so when they’re finishing, I’m finishing. When they’re in the gym I can kind of be there. It does make it a lot easier.”"

So he will continue to be a part of the Flyers’ leadership system as he recovers from a surgery that gives him about a six-to-eight week timeline.

Hayes will certainly have a huge support system around him in Philadelphia. Keith Yandle, one of the Flyers’ newcomers, has been staying with Hayes since he got to the city. Aside from Jimmy, he considers Yandle to be one of his best friends. So having him around and staying with him is special. Cam Atkinson was roommates with Jimmy during their time at BC so he got to know him quite a bit. Hayes played with Derick Brassard early in his career and he made frequent visits to Boston. James van Riemsdyk also spent some time playing with Jimmy as well.

There will no doubt be even more people in Hayes’ corner during this upcoming season. And that was the biggest thing that he wanted to talk about. The organization itself, both Fletcher and Vigneault, have shown tremendous support throughout it all. They sent a team bus up to the service, something Hayes was truly thankful for.

Hayes will return from injury within the next two months and time will go on. He will take Jimmy’s memory and use that to push him forward this season. If he’s going through a rough patch or not playing up to the standards that the fanbase believes he can, he will think of Jimmy.