Dorchester has had quite its share of hockey success stories over the years. But few have been as remarkable as the tale of the Hayes brothers of Neponset.
Jimmy, 20, is a standout forward for the NCAA national champion Boston College Eagles. His younger brother, Kevin, 18, has excelled on the ice for Nobles and Greenough and will join his brother at the Heights next season.
The boys have never played on the same team, so the BC angle looked to be special – until the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks beat them to the punch.
On June 25, the entire Hayes family, including dad Kevin, mom Shelagh, their five children, and assorted aunts, uncles, cousins traveled to Los Angeles for the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft at the Staples Center. All watched proudly as Kevin, the family baby, was selected by Chicago in the first round, the 24th pick overall. As the family was celebrating Kevin’s good news, they learned that the Toronto Maple Leafs had dealt an unnamed, unsigned player to the Blackhawks for the 43rd pick. As it turned out, that player was Jimmy Hayes.
“I was very surprised at first, but I couldn’t be happier,” said Jimmy. “We have always hoped for each other to do well. Of all of the opportunities that I have had through hockey, my best experience was playing with Kevin at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp. This was the first time we ever played on the same line. We were roommates. It was great.” Kevin quietly agreed with his brother. “It was easier for me having my brother there. We have always supported each other.”
Kevin and Shelagh’s team:two boys, three girls
In addition to the boys, Kevin, a Roslindale native, and Shelagh, who hails from Charlestown, have three girls: Genevieve, 23, is a graduate of Salve Regina College; Eileen, 22, is at Curry College; and Justine, 19, attends the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy.
When the kids were babies, the couple lived in Charlestown and it was there that Shelagh’s father, Crash MacNeil, or “Da” as the kids called him, first introduced the boys o the ice. “My father used to take them skating at the O’Neil Rink when they were little,” Shelagh recalls. “Probably from about the time they were 2 or 3.”
As Jimmy grew, he became involved in the routine course of hockey programs: first learn to skate, join a house league, then mites. Like so many little brothers, Kevin followed in Jimmy’s footsteps. Early on the boys played for Charlestown Youth Hockey, but by the time they were Squirts, they were enrolled in Dorchester Youth Hockey where, both readily recall, coaches Paul Vincent and Linda Perkins made a solid impression on them. In addition to the competition in the Dorchester league, the Hayes duo played with the St. Moritz Devils and the South Shore Kings.
Chasing the puck, educational league
Both boys attended Saint Ann’s School in Neponset but hockey called early on: As a seventh grader, Jimmy was accepted at the Nobles and Greenough School in Dedham where he boarded from Monday through Friday and came home. After the tenth grade there, Jimmy, now 6-foot-5, left Nobles to attend Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and play for the US National Development Team. He warmly remembers the time he spent in Michigan. “I flew out with my Dad and my mother and my Aunt Joannie drove out to get me settled. I knew it would be a good learning experience and I was happy to be going. I wasn’t nervous about living away from home because I had already lived in dorms at Nobles for two years. Caroline and Bill Van Cleeves were my host family and they were awesome.”
After graduating from Pioneer, Jimmy played 30 games in the United States Hockey League in Nebraska with the Lincoln Stars. In 2008, he was selected 60th overall in the NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then, after mulling over many attractive opportunities, he chose to attend Boston College, enrolling in the Carroll School of Management.
“I really liked the campus and the hockey coach,” he said of Jerry York, a multiple winner of NCAA hockey championships, including the title game last spring with No. 10, Jimmy Hayes, on the team.
Like his older brother, Kevin left Saint Ann’s for Nobles as a seventh grader. Unlike Jimmy, he was a day student, choosing to commute to school every day rather than live in the school’s dormitories. During the summer of 2009, he played for the United States National Under-17 Hockey team in Slovakia. As a 6-foot-3 forward at Nobles, Kevin was scouted by NHL teams from all over the country. “You would have an idea they were there,” he says, “but it didn’t make me nervous, I just played.”
Kevin completed his junior year at Nobles this spring. Having excelled academically, he is now participating in an accelerated program that will allow him to complete his high school diploma this summer. He will be studying at Boston College next year and playing for the Eagles alongside his brother in Conte Forum.
Kevin the father says that Jimmy was “totally shocked” by the announcement that his brother will join him in Chestnut Hill. Adds Shelagh, “We’re very excited to see them play together at Boston College, then hopefully as Blackhawks someday.”
Kevin says that any sacrifices he and his wife have made on behalf of their boys have been well worth it. “I am so proud of them. They have given up a lot of things. Even at a young age we knew they were special. They are very self-motivated. Look at the year they have had: Jimmy’s at BC, and they won the national championship. Kevin was named New England Independent Schools’ Player of the Year. Kevin was drafted in the first round. Jimmy was traded to the same team as his brother. Shelagh and I always ask, ‘how do you top this’?”
The sisters’ view of the boys success
How did the Hayes girls feel about hockey being the center of their family’s universe? Answers Justine: “I never minded it. When the boys had tournaments, we would usually all go for a family vacation. If they were playing in Canada, we would make it into a ski trip. I just remember getting to leave school early when we had to go away.” Of the possibility of having two brothers in the NHL Justine says, “My friends make a big deal about it, but I brush it off. They will still just be my brothers.”
While the boys’ academic strengths and athletic skills have made heads turn, Nobles and Greenough Hockey Coach Brian Day says that Hayes boys’ appeal goes far beyond that. “First and foremost they are phenomenal hockey players, but they are even better kids. They are personable, respectful, and humble. They always show up and work hard and have fun. They are both gregarious and pied-pipers in their own right. Their family has been wonderful. Jimmy has kept in touch and we know Kevin will as well.”
The boys say it: ‘We’re from Dorchester, MA’
Their dad talks about the important role that the neighborhood has had on his children’s development.
“They are very proud to be from Dorchester. When the kids are announced at games or have their names in programs, they always make sure it says they are from “Dorchester, MA”. Some people like to say they are from Boston, but we are proud to say from Dorchester. And you know what? There are a lot of great kids in this neighborhood. It’s too bad you only hear about the bad ones.”