If it seems like it’s a sad time for hockey fans this week, it is. Particularly for local fans, but it’s one thing for a local legend to retire following a long career after accomplishing nearly everything possible in the NHL, even if it was a health issue that compelled Henrik Lundqvist to retire. It’s another when you’re talking about Rod Gilbert passing away, as tragic as that was thankfully he at least made it to 80. I think we’d all sign up to make it to eighty right now, well at least those of us that aren’t AT or much nearer to that age. It seems that much more senseless, and jarring today to hear about the sudden loss of Jimmy Hayes at just 31 years old. Especially hearing he left behind a wife and two small children who’ll never get to know their dad firsthand.
Hayes played in the NHL in 334 total games over seven seasons, with four different teams including his hometown Bruins. His NHL career ended with thirty-three games right here in New Jersey in 2017-18. I’m not going to pretend he was some beloved figure here, at least not from a fan standpoint. Although he did have at least one shining moment early on as a Devil that I forgot about until I saw it on Twitter:
Hayes certainly was beloved from a teammate standpoint and by everyone in the hockey community, by all accounts a good man with a sense of humor. Seeing some of the tributes on Twitter today are more heartbreaking. Especially coming from places where you don’t realize there was a connection like with PK Subban, who didn’t play with Hayes in New Jersey but did long before that.
Quite honestly there isn’t much more I can say. I obviously didn’t know the man personally or have any real attachment to him as a hockey fan, but the tributes pouring in all over the Internet from those that did can do his memory more justice than I ever could. You may feel old when guys you grew up watching start passing away, but you feel vulnerable when guys who you watched that are younger than you start doing so. No cause of death was given, all any of us can do is send best wishes to his family and celebrate a life well lived, albeit one far too short.