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The True Meaning of Hockey

02/02/2016, 10:45am EST
By Kevin J. Johnston

Fun And Fitness

Who says there’s no crying in hockey?

Not me, not after a reunion ceremony for the two young stars of last week’s True Meaning of Hockey column, at a rink in Mississauga.

Hunter Barnhardt’s mother, Tiffany, cried. David Boddy’s mother, Angie, cried and his coach, Joltin’ Joe Couto got a little misty.

A dozen atom Meadowvale Hawks hockey moms dabbed their eyes, a few dads, too. Even the mascot was sniffling. Don Cherry would have broken down, sure as shootin’.

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The good kind of crying, I mean.

Hunter and David, on the other hand, stood shoulder to shoulder and beamed ear to ear. They are now fast friends.

Here’s the instant replay:

Hunter, 9, is not long out of a wheelchair, put there by Perthes disease, which attacked his left hip.

But grit, and love of the game, brought him back after four surgeries and a tough two years. On the weekend of Jan. 23, he patrolled the blue line for his Cambridge team at the big Frank Sabatino Memorial Tournament in Oakville.

In the skills competition team relay, his bad hip caught up to him and his team finished dead last.

In the locker room, Hunter was inconsolable. “I let them down,” he sobbed.

Enter David Boddy, 10, captain of the rival Meadowvale Hawks. “What are you talking about, dude?” he began, and gradually talked Hunter out of the dumps. Told him he’d done his best, said it wasn’t his fault, said he’d skated just fine.

Hunter’s mom, when her tears stopped, sent a note of thanks to Meadowvale coach Couto, who showed it to me, and next thing you know ...

“Drew Doughty tweeted about it!” Hunter tells me at the reunion. Doughty, the L.A. King, is his favourite defenceman.

Says Tiffany: “Hunter couldn’t talk for, like, an hour,” which I have a hunch is a rarity.

Couto was peppered with offers from companies wanting to honour the boys. My old pal, the Singing Postie, sent Hunter signed photos of Joe Sakic, Keith Primeau and Vincent Lecavalier.

Which brings us back to a party room, and a mob of 50, at the community rinks of Mississauga’s Hershey centre.

The Hawks invited Hunter to practice and are making him an honorary teammate. Why?

“Not many people I know,” their captain tells me, “have been in a wheelchair and then got back into hockey. That kind of touched me.”

Touched a lot of folks.

Mississauga Councillor Pat Saito, brings official word: “Your behaviour has set an excellent example for players of all ages,” says David’s certificate “for true sportmanship.”

David presents his new pal with a black and gold Hawks jersey, No. 17, which happens to be the number they both wear.

“Our last names start with B, too,” adds Hunter.

“You’ve become part of our team,” coach Couto tells him. “From now on ... you’ll always be a Hawk.”

City league president Brian Webster says, “We hear so many stories that are negative about hockey...”

“What David did,” says Tiffany, ”made me feel so happy that there’s kindness out there that you don’t see that often.

“Hunter was lucky to have David in that room that day and I know it’ll be something that Hunter never forgets.”

Nary a dry eye do I see.

“There’s a lot of adults,” says David’s single mom, Angie, “not only in hockey but everywhere that could learn a couple of lessons from these guys.”

A giant, blue, stuffed salmon, mascot of the OHL Mississauga Steelheads, leaps in, bearing bobbleheads of star forward Michael McLeod.

There’s balloons and a big, “Go Hawks Go” cake. Doughty sent a couple of jerseys.

A lot to take in for two lads whose ages total 19. A lot from one act of hockey kindness.

“I started out thinking it wasn’t such a big thing,” David tells me.

That’s just it, kid. The best big things come from small deeds.

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Meadowvale Hockey Association News - The Meadowvale Mohawks and The Meadowvale Hawks - Mississauga Hockey League News at the Mississauga News - Mississauga Gazette

Hunter Barnhardt, 9, who plays for the Cambridge Hawks hockey team - gets ready to skate during Meadowvale Hawks practice at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont. on Friday February 5, 2016. Barnhardt was presented with Meadowvale's jersey and made a ho

Meadowvale Hockey Association News - The Meadowvale Mohawks and The Meadowvale Hawks - Mississauga Hockey League News at the Mississauga News - Mississauga Gazette

Meadowvale Hawks hockey team coach Joe Couto and captain David Boddy, 10, present their team's jersey to rival player from the Cambridge Hawks - Hunter Barnhardt, 9 - at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont. on Friday February 5, 2016. He was also made

Meadowvale Hockey Association News - The Meadowvale Mohawks and The Meadowvale Hawks - Mississauga Hockey League News at the Mississauga News - Mississauga Gazette

Meadowvale Hawks hockey team captain David Boddy, 10, (left) poses with Hunter Barnhardt, 9, from the rival team Cambridge Hawks - after at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont. on Friday February 5, 2016. Barnhardt was presented with Meadowvale's jerse

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