It took weeks of brainstorming, but Kevin Hayes and his family finally came up with an appropriate way to honor the memory of Hayes’ brother Jimmy, who died in August. But it took almost no time at all for people across the NHL to get involved.
Thursday afternoon, Hayes announced “The 11 Fund,” named after the number Jimmy wore. The fund will serve as a scholarship fund, providing tuition assistance to underprivileged children at Saint John Paul School in Dorchester, Mass., a school in which Jimmy, Kevin, and their three sisters attended as children.
The response from the league has been “crazy,” Hayes said. Once they decided on the fund, Hayes said he reached out to one player on every team about it. Within one hour, every player had responded.
“Just to see guys — some guys I don’t even know — I had to text other guys to get their numbers, and having them respond and saying how good of an idea it was and without a doubt, we’re in; anything else they can do?” Hayes said. “Without a doubt, it’s a cool league.”
By Thursday night, the fund had already raised over $15,000 from just one team. Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk posted on his Instagram account: “Tonight the Anaheim Ducks players and staff were proud to donate our money on the board to the @the11fund on behalf of Jimmy Hayes’ legacy. I’m so thankful to everyone for participating across the league. #belikejimmy”
“Money on the board” refers to a cash-incentive system in the NHL. Before big games, a player can volunteer money for the board. If the team wins, the money goes into a team fund to help pay for team activities. If they lose, it generally goes back to the player.
Twenty-four people placed money on the board before the Ducks game against the Seattle Kraken, which the Ducks won, 7-4. In total, they raised $16,000, enough to pay an entire year of tuition for two students in kindergarten through eighth grade and just $500 shy of paying three students’ entire tuition at Saint John Paul School.
Jimmy’s wife, Kristen Hayes, responded, “Incredible!!!!! Love you!!! Thank you guys so much wow” when she saw the post.
The Flyers didn’t play Thursday night, but before their game Friday, James van Riemsdyk, a veteran Flyer and friend of Jimmy’s, said the team planned to get involved. The next day, Spittin’ Chiclets, a podcast run by friends of the Hayeses, shared the money the Flyers put on the board. It was close to $100,000.
The Flyers roster is filled with players who know the Hayes family well. Some of them made donations that ended in 11.
Hayes said people underestimate the brotherhood of the NHL, but the outpouring has shown just how close the league is. He said that the fund has already raised more than he could have imagined. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said it also is a testament to what the Hayeses mean to the league.
“Anybody that knows the Hayeses just knows the quality of people that they are,” Vigneault said. “I think it’s just a matter of honoring a good family and a family that’s been there in their community. And in the NHL community. The NHL is a tight-knit group that’s always there for one another, and that’s why I think the whole league will show.”
Hayes also handed out hats to his teammates to honor his brother, Vigneault said.
The Hayes family purposefully chose a cause for The 11 Fund that aligns well with the things Jimmy valued.
“Jimmy’s sole purpose in life was to make those around him feel important and happy, and he did that daily and effortlessly,” Hayes wrote when he announced the fund. “He also jumped at the opportunity to help others in need, especially children. So, we figured there would be no better way to carry Jim’s legacy on than in our hometown and by helping children.”