For Matt Brown, the news that Bishop Feehan High School (North Attleboro, MA) hockey player A.J. Quetta had suffered a spinal injury in a game this past Tuesday was all too familiar.
“Six days ago was the anniversary of my accident and then that happened three days later,” Brown said. “So Wednesday, I got a call from a buddy who is a coach at Norwood and says, there was an accident last night. Don’t really know yet. The kid’s in Mass General. Then you hear as it comes out that it’s going to be a spinal injury and it really hit home.”
On January 23, 2010, life forever changed for the then Norwood (MA) High School hockey sophomore player. Brown suffered a serious spinal injury that left him paralyzed. However, since then Brown has become an inspiration to all as an advocate for spinal injury awareness and science, an author, a public speaker, and now, along with his family, the founder of the Matt Brown Foundation. He is one of those people who have every right to feel robbed of so much but instead tries every day to embrace the support he receives and pay it forward.
Brown was immediately brought back again to the day that changed his life and while spinal cord injuries vary in degree, Brown knew from his experience what might be developing. He couldn’t reiterate enough to A.J. Quetta and his family that Brown, his family, the hockey community and so many more are behind them for the long haul.
“Every spinal cord injury is different, every kind of experience is different, but I said it, it definitely feels like a nightmare right now for them but just seeing the response on social media, on the news,” Brown said. “I was blown away how the GoFundMe is almost up to $500,000 already. I hope the family knows and that AJ knows that: He’s not going to go through this alone; the family’s not going to go through this alone.
You got the hockey community; you got the Bruins; you got Rob Kraft and just so many that are going to be there for him. And, we’re going to be there just as well. The foundation that we have, we’re still young and we don’t have that much money for him this time around and as we grow. So again, I just want to make sure he knows that by no means is he going to go through this alone.”
The empathy Brown has for Quetta and his family was clearly evident as his voice began to crack.
“Everything I’m hearing on A.J. is that he’s just a great kid and has a great family, and it sucks, I really feel for them,” an emotional Brown said. “It really hit home this week.”
What’s also hit home for Brown but hasn’t been the least bit surprising is the support the Boston Bruins have shown to A.J. Quetta already. The Bruins pledged a minimum of $100,000 to the Quetta GoFundMe; alternate captain Brad Marchand hung Quetta’s jersey behind the Bruins bench and then, after not finding out about Quetta’s injury until after the game day skate Thursday, new Bruins winger Craig Smith placed the game puck in a Bruins dressing room stall with a Quetta nameplate.
Tonight was for A.J. pic.twitter.com/48n9U4fmWM
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 29, 2021
Brown wants A.J. Quetta to know that support from the Bruins and the hockey community won’t stop because it still hasn’t for him.
“The Bruins, I knew they’d step up because that’s who they are,” Brown said. “They are some of the best guys around. They’re a different breed, hockey players are, a completely different breed. They will drop what they’re doing to check in on you and see how you’re doing.”
We tell a story to people who just don’t get it of how you can be down in the tunnel after to see Patrice but you go by any of the guys, they’re going to stop their interviews, stop what they’re doing, to really come in and check on you. It’s not bullshit; it’s genuine. I’m extremely lucky with the support I’ve gotten from them and it’s not a one-time thing, it’s not just for show. They’re doing so much behind the scenes that it’s a special group.”