To say a goal had extra meaning for Halifax Mooseheads forward Braeden MacPhee on Saturday night would be an understatement.
MacPhee put the puck in the net for his late mother — who died from cancer less than six months ago — during Mooseheads Fight Cancer Night while the team was wearing special jerseys in front of more than 8,500 fans.
“The whole night was really special for me to play with those jerseys on,” said MacPhee. “To score that goal it was a very special moment for my family.”
Following the goal, MacPhee made his way back to the Halifax bench. That’s when the impact of him scoring a goal for his mother, who was taken by cancer at the age of 46, really sank in and he broke into tears.
“I’m normally not a very emotional guy, but it definitely brought a tear to my eye,” said MacPhee, a 19-year-old forward from Moncton. “I could feel my mom’s presence right there with me.”
Halifax coach Jim Midgley says the emotion that came pouring out of MacPhee after the third-period goal speaks to his character.
“Obviously that was an emotional time for him and he’s the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve every night,” said Midgley. “Everybody with our team knew what he went through last year and it was really touching for all of us to see him score that goal, it was really incredible to see him do it.”
Jolene Conway passed away last spring. Part of her obituary read, “Jolene dedicated her life to her boys and was their biggest supporter in all their sports activities. She loved attending hockey games and any other games the boys played.”
Devoted hockey mom
“Her whole life was really dedicated to me and my brother, we are both huge into hockey and that’s something we’ve always done our whole lives,” said MacPhee. “She was always at the rinks and she always wanted the best for us.”
MacPhee says his parents didn’t immediately tell him and his younger brother Marc how serious her cancer diagnosis was. They thought it would be best if the boys didn’t know right away, particularly for Braeden, who was living almost three hours away from the family home in Moncton.
“I think that just kind of showed just how much she really cared about me,” said MacPhee. “Instead of me being here in Halifax and worrying about it all, my parents just kept it under the table so I could go and perform and do my thing.”
Eventually as Conway’s condition began to deteriorate, the two boys were made aware of what was happening. When Conway passed away the Mooseheads were in the middle of playoffs and Braeden stepped away from the team and missed a total of three games. He says the support he got from the team helped him pull through a very rough time.
“My teammates, the Mooseheads staff, my billet family, everyone in the organization was just super awesome throughout the whole thing,” said MacPhee. “These people are all my family during the hockey season and they made the process so much easier for me and I am super thankful for each and every one of them.”
Many junior hockey teams hold special nights to raise money for cancer research or treatment.
Mooseheads cancer nights have evolved over the years from “Pink in the Rink”, which was in support of breast cancer research. They now hold Mooseheads Fight Cancer night to raise funds and awareness for all types of cancer.
An online auction is currently underway and will run until Sunday night for the purple jerseys the team wore for the game. Proceeds will go directly to those battling cancer via the Halifax Mooseheads Charitable Foundation.