For Kevin Hayes, the last 18 months of life has dealt its fair share of bad days. In August 2021, his older brother, Jimmy, passed away suddenly at the age of 31. One month later, Hayes had abdominal surgery that sidelined him for the first 12 games of the Flyers 2021-22 season.
In just his second game back, Hayes scored his first goal of the season and pointed to the rafters in tribute to his late brother. But later that night, he sustained another injury that would keep him out until Dec. 1. After playing through injury for 18 more games, he was out of the lineup again until March 5.
In the final 28 games of the 2021-22 season, Hayes scored seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. He had just three goals and nine points in his first 20 games.
This season, Hayes got off to one of the best starts of his career. Through 27 games, Hayes had 28 points. In the next nine games, he had just two points. This included getting benched for an entire period, then scratched on Dec. 17.
It’s no wonder, looking at the last 18 months, why Hayes may have thought this weekend, the first All-Star Game appearance of his career, was never possible. But he had the belief of someone else, his brother.
“Not to get emotional, but it’s probably the only thing my brother wanted me to accomplish,” Hayes said after the announcement of his selection in January. “I never honestly thought it would happen. I know my family is really excited.”
Hayes admitted the idea of being an All-Star started as a joke of sorts. It was something that Jimmy would say to Kevin every year, that this was the year he would make an All-Star team.
“It was more of a joke, honestly. He would always just say this is the year it’s gonna happen,” Hayes said. “I think he was just saying it to be a good guy, but it’s cool that it is happening.”
Part of the family experience will involve his brother’s oldest son, Beau. Hayes called his nephew “a hockey genius” for a three-year-old. The two have shared a special bond since Jimmy’s passing and that includes the celebration in tribute of his brother that his nephew repeats.
“All he cares about is me pointing up to the sky after every goal,” Hayes said. “He wakes up every morning, he falls asleep with his hockey pants on. He shoots and he scores and he points up to the sky. That’s the reason why I do it.”
Many of the players who reach the All-Star game spend much of the experience taking it in with family. In years past, many players have had their children on the ice during the skills competition. Hayes is expecting it to be an even more memorable weekend with Beau going along.
“It’ll be a cool weekend for me because A. I never thought I’d be an All-Star, B. My whole family gets to experience it, C. It was my brother’s legitimate only thing he wanted me to do, and Beau gets added to it now,” Hayes said. “It’ll be an awesome weekend.
“He’s going to have the trip of a lifetime. It’s going to be a blast for him. He’s so addicted to hockey right now. He’s super excited and I think it’ll be awesome.”
Hayes and the rest of the NHL’s All-Stars will participate in the 3-on-3 tournament starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon from Sunrise, FL.