Boston College senior forward Kevin Hayes has had an eventful college career since being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks as their first-round pick in 2010.
Hayes recently took to the time to talk about his college career, nearly having his leg amputated, having his brother Jimmy Hayes traded from the Blackhawks, playing in another outdoor game at Fenway Park and much more.
Boston College is playing Notre Dame at Fenway Park on Jan. 4. You also played there as a sophomore. What’s it like to be able to play in two outdoor games?
Kevin Hayes: It’s amazing. I grew up going to Fenway Park, going to 20-30 games a year. To be able to play there again, it’s a dream come true. I know a bunch of family, buddies are going to be there. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.
Does playing against Notre Dame make it more unique?
KH: We’ve established a rivalry. We have a rivalry with BU (Boston University.) I think as of late we’ve created one with Notre Dame. Our football teams are so big with each other. Them coming to play here should be an unbelievable night. The past couple years we’ve had some close games. They got some great players. I know they have two Chicago drafts picks with Stephen Johns and Vinnie Hinostroza. It should be fun playing those guys.
Have you gotten to know Johns from attending Blackhawks’ prospect camp together over the years?
KH: We grew up playing with each other. Played on a couple national teams with him. We’ve become real close since the draft. I’ve been texting him about the game. Hopefully, it’s a good game, and we both play well.
Your numbers have jumped this season. What do you attribute that to?
KH: I think after the (quadriceps) injury last year; it was real close to being a career-ending injury. I was about 10 hours away from them amputating my leg off. I think it kind of made me wake up a little bit and value the game a little more.
Last year I worked with Russell DeRosa, an unbelievable trainer, and was in contact with the Hawks a lot and Barry Smith. He was giving me tips. I took the whole summer and rehabbed my leg and strengthened my leg. This year it’s very easy for me to hold on the puck with my leg and gotten a lot faster. I’ve had a good year. The guys I’m playing with [help], playing with Johnny Gaudreau, the best player in college hockey, and Billy Arnold, the best two-player I think.
I read you required four surgeries last year. Was it scary to go through all that?
KH: Four emergency surgeries. It was pretty scary. It’s started with a Charley horse. The trainer was like we’ll watch it for 24 hours and see what happens. All of a sudden, it blew up like crazy. I was rushed to the hospital and had surgery at 2 a.m. I had another surgery because blood wouldn’t stop coming out. Then, they had to put two claws in my legs to stretch the skin out and another to bring the skin together.
It was terrifying. I was in the hospital for 14 days. Guys from my team always came in. Close friends and family were always in. Everything went as it was supposed to go. It was just a scary couple days. I actually have no repercussions with it. I don’t feel it all. I just have a 16-inch scar two inches thick.
It was a close call. I’m just thankful for the doctor performing the surgeries and just trying not to think about it. It’s obviously there. I think about it a little bit when I look in the mirror. It kind of pushes me to keep working. I was so close to not being able to play again. It wakes you up. Do everything in my power to keep getting better and working hard.
Is it at all awkward for you that your brother, Jimmy, was traded from the Blackhawks this season to the Florida Panthers?
KH: Not really. It’s a professional sport. It’s about the job. He was up and down a bit. He loved everything about Rockford and Chicago. He has everything great to say about both coaches. He was sad to leave, but he’s playing every day in Florida. He wishes everyone the best luck. From my standpoint, I don’t find it awkward. Like I said, it’s a job. What’s best for the Hawks, they’re going to do.
Were you surprised Jimmy was traded?
KH: I was coming back from UMass on a Thursday, and my brother called and said, ‘I got traded.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ We talked about the last few years about playing with each other. That doesn’t affect me. I keep working hard and hopefully will be with the Hawks soon.
Have you learned anything from your brother and his experiences in the NHL?
KH: Biggest thing he talks about is being consistent. That’s the main thing guys look for. If you’re a consistent player, they always know what you can give them. My cousin and teammate Ryan Fitzgerald, his dad played 14 years. He says the same things. Just be consistent as possible.
Do you know what your plan is going forward with the Blackhawks?
KH: Pretty sure I’ll be signing once the season’s over. We’ll take it from there.