The funeral for Jimmy Hayes was coming to an end now, and soon the procession would be making its way from St. Ann’s Church in Dorchester down Gallivan Boulevard and onto Hallet Street, passing by Florian Hall.
That’s where 12-year-old Andrew O’Malley and hundreds of other youth hockey players from throughout Boston and beyond were waiting to remember Hayes in their own special way: They were going to raise their sticks as the hearse containing Jimmy’s remains approached, and then they planned to tap those sticks in the asphalt until every last car passed by en route to Cedar Grove Cemetery.
“I didn’t even have breakfast this morning,” said O’Malley, who is entering the seventh grade at Boston College High School. “I just got up, put on my hockey sweater, and came down here.”
That they were doing this wasn’t just because Hayes, who was only 31 when he died last week, was a former National Hockey League player who spent parts of two seasons with the Bruins. And it wasn’t even that Hayes was a son of Dorchester, having learned to play the game as a member of Dorchester Youth Hockey alongside his brother Kevin, who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers now.
No, it was this: Jimmy Hayes never forgot where he came from. That’s a bit of a cliche, sure, except that by all accounts Jimmy was a Dorchester kid growing up and he never stopped being a Dorchester kid, not once, not even after he made it to the NHL. That’s why all these kids showed up Monday morning. Seems every one of them had a story to tell about meeting Jimmy Hayes, and every story had a specialness to it, the kids talking about how Jimmy would ask them what position they played, where they went to school, what team they played on.
O’Malley, who plays for the Dorchester Chiefs — Jimmy’s old team — was asked to put into his own words why he and all these other youth hockey players were here on this grayish, slightly muggy Monday morning. He started to speak, delivering an answer that was crisp, eloquent and appropriate, but then, right in the middle of it all, he said, “Would you mind if I start over again?”
No need to, he was told. What he had said was perfect.
No, he said. He wanted to start over.
“I’m here because Jimmy was the heart and soul of Dorchester,” he said anew. “He’s one of three players from Dorchester Youth Hockey who made it to the NHL, and that’s because he put the work in to get there.”
He went on to explain that his father, Marty O’Malley, a Boston police detective, is friends with Jimmy’s old man, Big Kevin Hayes. Because of that friendship, young Andrew got to meet Jimmy. There was even a road trip down to New Jersey to see him play.
That connection— his father knew Jimmy’s father — is more or less why Andrew decided to start over. He had made a determination that talking about his relationship with Jimmy Hayes wasn’t a big deal. The big deal, he had determined, is that he’d always heard how hard Jimmy had worked during his own growing-up days in Dorchester. That’s the information he wanted to get out, not the mere fact that he knew him.