WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Prior to Saturday afternoon's game against BC High, the St. John's Prep hockey team listened to a pregame talk from Steve and Sue Hines.
The Hines' are the parents of Derek Hines, a former St. John's Prep student and hockey and lacrosse player, in whose honor the game was played. After graduating from the Prep, Derek Hines went on to West Point where he continued his hockey career and graduated in 2003.
He went on to complete Ranger and Airborne school while serving as a graduate assistant with Army's hockey program before joining up with the 173rd Airborne Division. Initially stationed in Italy, Hines was ultimately deployed to his unit in Afghanistan.
On Sept. 1, 2005, in Baylough, Afghanistan, his unit came under attack while conducting security operations. Hines was shot and killed at the age of 25.
After completing his first season as the head hockey coach at St. John's Prep, Kristian Hanson created the Derek Hines Memorial Game, which is now in its fifth year. Inspired by Hines' tale of bravery and courage, the Eagles are 4-1 in these games after Saturday's 3-2 victory over BC High.
"For us a hockey program, to give a little bit back to the family, to give something to the foundation, it's special for us, it's special for me as a coach," Hanson described. "It's something that we started five years ago and its grown into something pretty special. Each year we look forward to it and I thought today was a wonderful day overall for the foundation."
Sue and Steve Hines talked to the Eagles about Derek's life, the can-do attitude with which he took to everything, and what it meant to them to be part of the St. John's Prep family.
Steve Hines told the team an emotional story about something his son once told a friend of his named Eddie Hill, a Newburyport native who spent 13 years playing minor league hockey and was a second round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
"When Derek was in Afghanistan he had a chance to to talk to Eddie and he explained to Eddie about when he's in a helicopter, getting ready to jump out of a helicopter on a mission, he had the same feeling as in a locker room," Hines said after the game. "He got that same feeling in the helicopter he got in the locker room before a game and that's what I talked to them about. I said, 'You're part of something special and this feeling, not everyone gets to experience that.'"
The speech was so inspiring that Hanson didn't say a word to his team when Mr. Hines was finished speaking. He didn't need to.
"It's such a good cause and when Mr. Hines came in and talked to us, Coach Hanson didn't have to say anything afterward," said Eagles junior forward Jimmy Currier, who was the star of the game with two spectacular goals. "Everything he said ... he gave us his whole story ... his work ethic ... never give up and do it for your team and for everyone around you."
The team had a surprise in store for the Hines family as well. Through fundraising efforts, the players earned enough money to not only make a sizable donation to the 1st Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund, but also to purchase new uniforms emblazoned with the Stars & Stripes in Derek's honor. The most important jersey of all was one bearing the number 23 and the Hines name, which hung behind the Eagles bench during the game.
Sue and Steve went on the ice before the game where St. John's Prep Athletic Director Jim O'Leary and the team presented them with a check for $4,000 for the foundation.
"He means a lot to our community," O'Leary said. "The parents, there's a scholarship they have at school plus they have this foundation. His brothers played here afterwards also so they are part of our community. As long as Kristian is here and I'm here, we're going to continue to do this kind of thing for them. They're outstanding people."
BC High coach John Flaherty and his team were looking forward to this game as well. Flaherty spoke earlier in the week about what an honor it is for BC High to chosen to participate in the Hines Game for the third straight year and opened his postgame remarks Saturday with thoughts of the Hines family.
"It was a great game for a great person," Flaherty said. "To honor Derek Hines like they're doing, it's quite a tribute and its well deserved. BC High is honored and privileged to be a part of this game. To see Mr. and Mrs. Hines out there accepting a check to help their foundation, it's great."
For the Hines family, the incredible outpouring of support they have received since Derek's tragic passing has been invaluable. While nothing will ever erase the grief of the tragedy they've endured, like so many other military families across the nation, the efforts of the St. John's Prep community have been as helpful as it gets in coping.
"All of this is about people helping people," Mrs. Hines explained. "People helping us deal with the grief that we've had. We can't change what happened but we can use the donations that they give us to make a difference in a soldier's life. It's amazing how the love from these people helps us to help other people."