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Haggerty: Fond Boston Bruins Memories of Jimmy Hayes

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There have been a lot of beautiful tributes written about Dorchester/Boston College/Boston Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes over the last sad, tragic and somber 24 hours, and there will be even more in the coming days ahead.

But there can never be enough said about a good-hearted, happy-go-lucky hockey player unthinkably lost at the age of 31 years old, who leaves behind a loving wife along with a toddler and an infant that will never know their dad aside from pictures, videos and others’ stories.

Hayes only played two seasons for the Boston Bruins, and it was during a rocky period when the B’s barely missed the playoffs two seasons in a row. It was a personal lifelong dream achieved for the 6-foot-5 forward after winning a National Championship with Boston College, but it wasn’t easy for Hayes once he arrived in Boston.

Hayes scored 13 goals in his first season with Boston, including this memorable hat trick against the Ottawa Senators.

But Hayes started the 2016-17 season without a single goal in his first 19 games of the season as the pressure mounted. It was in that 20th game, though, that Hayes exploded for a goal at TD Garden amidst a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and then tossed a monkey off his back in celebration of the slump-busting score.

The goal became a favorite personal moment with Hayes during his two years in Boston because it brought out his true Boston personality. When he was asked about the celebration after the game, Hayes smirked and said he was tossing the monkey to this humble hockey writer up on the 9th floor at TD Garden.

Hayes was later asked in the same scrum about his scoreless stretch to start the season, and again couldn’t resist a quick chirp with a smile on his face.

“It’s been a while, I think,” said Hayes, at the time of the goal. “Where’s Haggs [Joe Haggerty]? Haggs usually knows how long it’s been, so hopefully he caught that one.”

The back-and-forth shows Hayes’ happy-go-lucky nature and exactly why he was so popular inside the dressing room with his teammates. The jokes and the laughs were constant from a kid that grew up as hockey royalty in Massachusetts along with his cousins in the Fitzgerald and Tkachuk families, and those that played with him loved him for it.

It was clear in the avalanche of heartfelt tributes from players like PK Subban, Chris Wagner and his cousin, NJ Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald, that Hayes was genuinely loved and adored by those that came into contact with him.

He was simply a nice kid, a good hockey player and a genuine person that didn’t have any ill intent or agenda to anything he did on or off the ice.

And the people of Dorchester were endlessly proud of the power forward and his brother Kevin Hayes, who both beat the odds to get to the NHL together for a handful of seasons. Never was that Dot pride more apparent than when Hayes paid a visit to a Dorchester library for a Boston Bruins community event, and the people showed up in droves to share a laugh, get a picture or just get a look at the local kid done good.

There truly is something special about local kids excelling, making it to the NHL and then playing for the Boston Bruins team they rooted for as a kid. We see it over and over again with players like Charlie Coyle, Chris Wagner, Matt Grzelcyk, Noel Acciari, Tim Schaller and Hayes as well.

Hayes was lucky enough to live that dream for a few years and still kept a smile on his face even when the pressure mounted on his shoulders in that second year with the hockey club. That’s what makes all of this so sad. Hayes had just started getting involved in a “Missin’ Curfew” hockey podcast and was just in the middle of figuring out his next moves with his playing career over.

Hayes had plenty more life left to live and more laughs to bring everybody at rinks near and far, and now we all feel robbed of that with him gone way too soon at 31 years old. That pales in comparison to the loss that all his cousins, his brother Kevin, his dad Big Kevin and his mom, and his wife Kristen and kids Beau and Mac, are all feeling right now, but everybody has felt a little emptier over the last 24 hours knowing that a kind soul like Jimmy Hayes has left us.

Let’s hope the Jimmy Hayes tributes, stories and memories keep coming because it’s all putting a smile on our face at a pretty sad time.

Now on to the BHN Puck Links:

*David Krejci has killed all the suspense and confirmed that he has no plans to return to the Boston Bruins this season after picking up his family and heading to the Czech Republic. (Boston Hockey Now)

*Good work by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rob Simpson, who speaks with agent Pat Brisson for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes about the “healthy conversations” going on with the Vancouver Canucks about their unsigned players. (Vancouver Hockey Now)

*FOH Kevin Allen delves into what Lucas Raymond can do to make an impact, and make the Red Wings team, for this upcoming season. (Detroit Hockey Now)

*Damien Cox says that the NHL has lost their interest in sending their players to the Olympics and will only do so now because it’s so important to the players. (Toronto Star)

*For something completely different: The agony of defeat here is palpable.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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