This past week, most people were doing some last minute grocery shopping, getting their houses ready for hordes of family members to come over to eat, drink and be merry, and whatever families do for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for me, as well as a heaping majority of the city of Stamford, we spent the week of Thanksgiving mourning the loss of a friend, family member, and overall great person in Joey Comunale. Personally, Joey and I grew up together through hockey, and just hanging out around the neighborhood, doing what kids do (usually causing mischief, or playing street hockey). He always cracked a joke, followed up with his trademark doofy laugh, and was always down for a good time. Although some may say he was a goofball, deep down he was always a caring soul. If you needed a dollar, a ride (Scotty), or a job opportunity, he’s the first one who would extend his hand out to make sure that you’re taken care of. For the little things like that, I thank you Joey and promise to keep your kind hearted soul alive by doing the same for anyone I encounter.
I’m a firm believer that through every dark cloud, there’s a silver lining. Joey’s family, friends, and anyone he’s encountered throughout his life have been going through a whirlwind of emotions these past couple of weeks. In true Joey fashion, we had to conclude our mourning process in the only place other than his own house that he called home: the ice rink. This past Saturday, Terry Connors Rink hosted the Westhill/Stamford Co-Op Alumni game, where players from both SHS and Westhill from the years past gather for a day, lace up the skates, and hit the ice one time for old time sake. More importantly than that, it was a chance for us guys who grew up playing hockey with Joey to play the game that he loved in his honor, as well as have his number 9 Westhill jersey retired.
Once I got to the rink, I got the same vibes as I always did whenever I knew I was gonna play hockey: happiness, anxiousness, and ready to shoot the shit with a bunch of buddies that I haven’t seen in a while. After signing in and whatnot, I walked into the locker room and was surrounded by my boys, my second family. When we all got together, time for me stood still. Seeing how happy this game makes us, brings us together, the memories we’ve created; this alumni game was proof that a bond of true friendship can never be broken, especially with us hockey guys. Although you weren’t with us physically, your spirit was in that locker room with us.
As we took the ice, I looked up into the stands to see a swarm of people. The Advocate said there was close to 500 people in that rink, but all I saw were my teammates on both benches, wearing their yellow and gold, skating for our buddy Joey. Before the game began, we honored him with a moment of silence, along with the retirement of his number and giving his parents joey’s jersey in a nice frame to remember him by. When the game started, time stood still again. This time, flashbacks of every time I’ve stepped onto the ice with these guys showed up, replaying certain plays that we ran in our high school days. On the day, I ended up with two goals (most I’ve had in any one “high school” game) but the best part of the whole game was the end, when our whole group of friends went over to Joey’s jersey, raised our sticks, and chanted his name.
I’m sure you took some time off from dangling on Gordie Howe on your perfectly surfaced sheet of ice and watched us skate for you. These past few weeks have been hard on many of us, but in the end, the love that we have for each other will forever help us overcome the hardships that we will struggle together. Love ya Joey, save me a spot on your team when I get called up.