The hockey world was hit hard today by the news of Jimmy Hayes’ death at 31 years old.
For the New England region, and especially Dorchester, Mass., the news of his untimely passing devastated the area, as everyone struggles to make sense of it all. The former NHL forward, who spent two seasons with the Boston Bruins from 2015-17, leaves behind his wife, Kristen, two young sons Beau and Mac, and countless family, friends and fans who loved him.
Hayes, who first learned to skate in Charlestown and was raised in Dorchester, was a star prep hockey player at Nobles before leaving the Bay State for Michigan and the U.S. National Team Program at age 15. There, the natural power forward spent two seasons and also played for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL before returning home to play for Boston College. In the meantime, the Toronto Maple Leafs chose Hayes in the second round, 60th overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
The Boston Bruins are heartbroken by the passing of Dorchester native and former Bruin Jimmy Hayes. Our thoughts are with his wife Kristen, his sons Beau and Mac, and the entire Hayes family during this very difficult time. pic.twitter.com/j9W7CyxSGs
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) August 23, 2021
His sophomore season in 2009-10 was a dream year, as Hayes and the Eagles captured the Beanpot in February, and then later that spring, raised the NCAA championship trophy overhead. His 13 goals and 35 points in 42 games that campaign were a personal best for Hayes.
Hayes recalled that special time in the May 2018 issue of New England Hockey Journal, saying: “That was the year we won the last nine games in a row and 12 of the last 13. We started calling the Beanpot the start of the trophy season. The winning streak we went on to win the national championship was our big thing. It showed the hard work that we had all year, and the lead up, to win all those games in a row, was really impressive.”
He turned pro following his junior season in 2011, signing with the Blackhawks a year after his rights had been traded to Chicago by Toronto for a 2010 second-round pick.
After starting out in the NHL with Chicago, he posted his best season with the Florida Panthers in 2014-15, scoring a career-high 19 goals and 35 points in 72 games.
That July, the B’s pulled the trigger on a deal to bring him home, acquiring him from the Panthers with forward Reilly Smith being the key piece going the other way. At the time, Hayes talked about being a Boston guy, getting a chance to play for the NHL team he cheered for growing up, calling it a “dream come true.”
His personal highlight as a member of the Bruins came in late 2015, when he tallied a hat trick against the Ottawa Senators, bringing the house down at the TD Garden.
Two seasons later, he was on the move again, playing for the New Jersey Devils in the 2017-18 campaign, his final games in the NHL. Although the success that everyone hoped for with the Bruins didn’t materialize, he was known for being upbeat, happy and didn’t let the experiences of playing for his hometown team sour him on the journey.
“It was a lot of fun playing in Boston,” he told New England Hockey Journal in 2018. “It didn’t go as well as you’d want it to go, but I have a lot of friendships from there. I have a lot of good buddies I met through hockey who I still keep in touch with. One of the best moments was making the playoffs (in 2017). You go through the whole season with the ultimate goal of making the playoffs, and to do it in your hometown was a lot of fun. It was a really cool moment.”
Hayes and his younger brother Kevin, both reached the NHL and achieved the rare status of going all the way to the top in hockey. They never forgot their roots, and Jimmy continued with his strong ties to the local community, becoming a fixture in rinks and even being a part of a hockey podcast with several former NHL players called Missin’ Curfew.
In 334 career NHL games, Hayes scored 54 goals and 109 points with the Blackhawks, Panthers, Bruins and Devils.
“I’m devastated to learn of the passing of my friend Jimmy Hayes,” Patrice Bergeron said in a team statement. “It was a pleasure getting to know Jimmy, and he was such a joy to be around both on and off the ice. I will always remember his big smile — he was so positive and full of life. I’m going to really miss that. We’ve lost a great person.”
He touched many in his short but bright life, inspiring other young players to follow in his footsteps. The outpouring of messages and support from across social media in the wake of his passing is but a small indicator of just how much of a difference he made and how he is already missed.
Jimmy Hayes played for the Devils in 2017-18, his last season in the NHL. He was far from a regular in the lineup, but he always had a smile on his face. I asked him in 2018 how he was always able to remain upbeat despite being scratched. His answer and more via @NEHockeyJournal: pic.twitter.com/ZF65ihhr2k
— Leo Scaglione Jr. (@LeoScaglioneJr) August 23, 2021