Brunswick University plays first hockey game at Hartong Rink since Teddy Balkind tragedy

GREENWICH — Members of the Millbrook and Brunswick men’s hockey teams lined up on their blue lines before the game and raised their sticks to the rafters at Hartong Ice on Wednesday for Teddy Balkind, St. Luke’s second student, who died on January 6 from injuries he suffered in a game against the Brunswick junior team on the same ice.

“Personally, it’s been pretty tough for me, and I know a bunch of other guys, it’s been tough for them, and obviously the JV team a lot worse for them,” Brunswick co-captain Hank Cleaves said. , a hired man from Dartmouth.

“We said to each other, we are all here for each other. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes. That’s what we have to do. We open up to our team, and that’s why we’re such a close team.

After a moment of silence with those sticks raised high, it was pretty much a normal kindergarten hockey game, fast and spirited at times. Brunswick came out strong, took a five-goal lead and held on to win 5-3.

“It’s been a tough week, especially for the Balkind family,” Brunswick hockey coach Mike Kennedy said. “We want to offer all the support we can. The boys did their best to honor Teddy with his No. 5 on their helmets and then a moment of silence before the game.

“We are all devastated by what happened, by the tragic and unfathomable loss of their families. We felt it was best to play hockey today in his honor, to keep playing the game he loved, so we did. »

At the other end of the sports center, the Brunswick basketball team wore warm-up shirts honoring Balkind before a game with St. Luke’s.

Few college players were at the JV game last week, Kennedy said; the university did not practice that day “for health reasons”, he said (and by the way, it was Brunswick’s first home game with spectators since March 2020).

“We had a group meeting with our team, JV team, JV coaches, some alumni, just to offer support,” Kennedy said. “The hockey family, as everyone has seen over the past five days, is a large, tight-knit community where everyone looks up to and leans on each other. »

Cleaves said the team has heard from alumni like NHL players Kevin Shattenkirk and John Hayden. He called the support incredible.

To focus on the game again, “it’s really difficult,” Cleaves said, “but I think our group overcame it. We’re proud, honoured.

The Bruins returned to the ice for puck toss practice on Monday. Tuesday was a bit more focused in preparation for Wednesday.

“I think it’s harder to be off the ice to be honest,” Kennedy said. “You’re on the phone, you hear different people, you record. When you’re on the ice, you try to change your mind a bit – not to take away from the tragedy – but I think playing hockey helps, helps the boys.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; @fornabaioctp

Catherine J. Martinez