BOSTON -- Jimmy Hayes unzipped the garment bag, hung in an unassuming locker room on the first floor of Warrior Ice Arena. The fabric peeking out was lavender, the suit coat and pants his attire to travel to the Bruins game later Tuesday at TD Garden.
"Oh baby," Hayes said. "Looking sharp."
The new suit was beautiful. But, more importantly, it made a statement.
The Bruins will host their Hockey Fights Cancer night on Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild (7 p.m. ET; NESN, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV). For someone who has been as affected by cancer as Hayes and his family, the suit held strong meaning. It was a way to celebrate survival, to bring awareness, to do what he could as part of a team and a League working to combat cancer.
"It's for a great cause," Hayes said. "I have a chance to recognize Hockey Fights Cancer awareness. It's a nice touch."
And it's personal.
"It's very special to me," Hayes said. "It has a nice spot in my heart. Both my parents battled cancer. They both beat it. They're both healthy right now. It's always nice to get that news, but it's always devastating to get the news that they have it.
"Just to watch them fight and continue to fight and spread awareness; it's always nice."
Hayes, along with his brother Kevin, a forward for the New York Rangers, watched as both of their parents fought cancer, and cheered as they both beat it. His mother, Shelagh, had colon cancer. His father, Kevin Sr., had throat cancer. His godmother had breast cancer.
"It's just something our family battled through," Kevin Hayes said. "It's stuff that families go through, stuff that no one knows behind the scenes. Fans look at us as players and think our lives are tough and we work so hard; yeah, we work hard, but it's not even close to what people affected by cancer do.
"It takes a toll on your family and it's a whole battle together as a family. When you get through it's kind of a relief. When you have your mom go through it when you're in high school and your dad go through it when you're in college it kind of just brings everyone together, which means a lot."
Said Jimmy Hayes, "My family is pretty close to begin with, but it's even closer when you have to see your parents battling, how tired and sick they are. You've got someone like my mom, who would go get radiation and come home and cook dinner for all five of her kids. It's truly remarkable. She's a tough lady. And same with my dad, always tough and always being his funny self, even when he was going through the sickest of times."
The Bruins reached out to a former club employee, Susan Zemaitis, the founder and designer at Evolue Apparel, to make the custom lavender suit. She took Hayes's measurements on Oct. 19, and the suit was completed in New York in less than a week. It was delivered to Boston on Tuesday morning. That left just enough time for Hayes to get a look at it, before donning his new duds to head to TD Garden for the game and the team's Hockey Fights Cancer night.
Zemaitis, who is based in Milton, Mass., was pleased to get a chance to participate in the endeavor. She, too, has been touched by cancer.
"I was really happy to do this," Zemaitis said. "My mom is a breast cancer survivor. My godfather and my grandmother also unfortunately succumbed to the disease. So knowing all the things that [Jimmy's] gone through with his family made us connected."
Hayes told his parents this week that he would be wearing the suit to honor them. And, as he said, "They loved it."
"They think it's always great," Hayes continued. "It's a soft spot in their heart. To be able to touch them, and recognize everybody that's fighting, it's just a great cause and brings a smile to their face."
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