Ed. Note — This story appears in Sunday’s version of The Eagle Tribune …
HARTFORD, Conn. — “When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.”
That’s a famous quote from Herb Brooks in the movie “Miracle.”
However, on Saturday afternoon at the XL Center in Hartford, the name on the back of the jersey was what meant the most.
Lance Brady died from cancer last week at the age of 48 years old. Brady, a former Holy Cross player, was in his first season as director of hockey operations with the Merrimack program.
In Saturday’s game between Merrimack and UConn, both teams removed last names from their jerseys and replaced them with Brady’s.
The idea came from the Merrimack players. Merrimack head coach Scott Borek said he called UConn head coach, North Andover native Mike Cavanaugh, earlier this week to ask if it was OK for the Warriors to wear Brady’s name on the back of their jerseys.
“Our players wanted to do something significant, and that was significant,” Borek said. “That was the players. They chose to do that tonight to honor Lance. I asked Cav for permission and he said sure, but he wanted to do it as well. That’s the hockey community. At the end of the game (in the handshake line), I was thanking their players for doing that. We appreciated it and I know it was appreciated by the Brady family.”
Brady came to Merrimack from Assumption College where he served as head coach for 10 seasons. Prior to Assumption, he was at Becker College and also coached at Marlboro High School. The Merrimack job, which he took in September, was his first job in Division I hockey.
His role as director of hockey operations included serving as the team’s video coach, where he forged relationships with the Merrimack players despite only working with the team for a short period of time.
Borek said that in Brady’s few months with the Merrimack program, he made a bigger impact than others do in years. His presence will be longlasting in the Merrimack locker room.
“He sacrificed a lot to get here, and when he got here he had zero ego,” Borek said. “I look back at it now, and I didn’t think about it then, but here’s a guy who played pro hockey, he’s a head coach, and he’s carrying video stuff around. He did whatever had to be done to help us. He was a really impressive guy.
“Lance’s impact on our program was that he wanted to be here so badly. The players knew that. His impact was that it mattered so much to him. He played the game for a long time, he played pro hockey, he was a head coach, and he had no ego. That’s why the guys took to him. It’s why I took to him. He was a really special guy who made an impact on us by how unselfish he was. He showed me to focus on what we have. It’s all he talked about. He never talked about what we didn’t have.”
Brady’s services will be this week, with a wake tomorrow in Worcester and a funeral on Tuesday in East Sandwich.
“We’re dealing with it as well as we can,” Borek said. “You can’t deal with it well. We have great leadership in that room, but they lost a teammate in the most tragic of ways. For the most part, we’ve done as well as could be expected. I know how I feel, so I can only imagine how 20-year-old guys feel. It’s been really hard. It’s a very empty feeling to see that happen. It’s difficult for all of us.”
Warriors fall, 5-0
The Warriors fell to the Huskies, 5-0. Logan Halladay made his second-straight start after an impressive 34-save effort against Vermont two weeks ago. Halladay made 32 saves on Saturday.
“We had people in the places to defend, but we didn’t commit to the defense physically,” Borek said. “We gave up legitimately five very easy goals, and I don’t mean that on our goaltender. Our goalie played his heart out. I didn’t like our level of battle defensively.”
The Warriors allowed the first goal of the game at the 1:55 mark when UConn freshman Ruslan Iskhakov found the back of the net.
“The first period didn’t surprise me,” Borek said. “We’re dealing with a lot as a group and we had the week off. We haven’t played in a while and they played Thursday, so we didn’t come out fast and they came out fast. I expected that, so it wasn’t frustrating.”
Merrimack turned the momentum in the second period and put up seven shots in the first six minutes. UConn scored to make it 2-0 at the 10:16 mark but the Warriors looked like they had some fight left. With the puck in the offensive zone, the first penalty of the game was called on Tyler Drevitch at the 10:40 mark and it shifted momentum back to the Huskies, who scored on the power play to make it 3-0.
“In the second period, we played our hearts out in the first eight minutes,” Borek said. “Our margin of mistake is so slim. We played really hard. … We have no margin of error. We get a penalty called against us and it takes us out of the game. We don’t have the confidence offensively to come back from two goals down right now. We’re in a very difficult part of our season and our transition as a program. Obviously, we have much bigger things on the plate right now than hockey, but on the ice confidence and focus is a challenge for us right now.”
Merrimack returns home on Friday night to open a two-game weekend against Maine at Lawler Arena.