WILMINGTON — Hard work. Leadership. Commitment to the team.
Those were the values that 1st Lt. Derek Hines, St. John’s Prep Class of 1999, lived his life by. They were evident during his four seasons of playing varsity hockey for the Eagles, continued when he enrolled in the U.S. military academy and played hockey for West Point, and certainly when he joined the 173rd Airbone Division and became an Army Ranger.
The 25-year-old Newburyport native was tragically killed in September 2005 while conducting security operations in Afghanistan, but his memory will never be forgotten: not by his family, not by his extended family at St. John’s Prep, and not by the untold number of others whose life he has touched in one way or another.
Wearing specially made blue camouflage hockey uniforms chosen by the team captains, St. John’s Prep came out on the losing end of the sixth annual Derek Hines Memorial Game Saturday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena, falling 4-2 to the state’s top-ranked team, unbeaten B.C. High. While victory certainly would have been the preferred option, the Eagles’ players and coaches both knew this was a game where the final score paled in comparison to what the day actually meant to them.
“It’s an honor to play for Derek and his family and to be part of this game the last few years,” senior captain and defenseman Ean Mendeszoon said. “As one of the seniors, I take it most to heart. It’s real inspiring hearing (Steve Hines, Derek’s father) talk about him, how he was a true natural born leader and set an example for a lot of people.”
“Whenever Mr. Hines comes in and speaks to us, it really gets to every single person,” added Prep captain Jimmy Currier of Middleton. “We all feel like, ‘We’ve got to go out there and do this for him.’ He sacrificed his life so we could play today. Coach really doesn’t have to say anything; we just want to win for the Hines family.”
Head coach Kristian Hanson said the character his team displayed after falling behind by two goals in the game’s first few minutes showed the give-all-you’ve-got effort he wanted from the Eagles.
“We came in believing we could win, but at the minimum we were going to compete,” he said. “The important thing for me as a coach is that we competed, start to finish.”
Steve Hines and his son, Trevor, were presented with a check for $6,500 from the St. John’s Prep hockey team for the 1st Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund, which provides financial assistance to soldiers and their families from the Bay State who have incurred serious or life-threatening injuries while active. “The amount of that check ... it floored me,” said Steve Hines, a lieutenant with the Massachusetts State Police.
They also presented the family with a camouflage hockey jersey with ‘Hines 23’ on the back, which Derek wore at St. John’s.
“We talked a lot about this, how great the cause was and what it meant to the Hines family and our school,” said newly anointed Prep captain Mark Etherington of Danvers. “We’re happy that we could raise the money we were able to.”
Steve Hines agreed completely with the mantra Prep athletic director Jim O’Leary likes to say: Once you’re an Eagle, you’re an Eagle for life.
“The St. John’s Prep community, it’s a wonderful school. You couldn’t send your son to a better school,” he said. “I told the boys in there, ‘You are so fortunate to be a part of something like this and to be a part of a team like this.’”
Hanson gives Steve Hines the chance to speak to his team prior to this annual contest. For the second straight year, Hines had no idea the Eagles had ordered and were wearing special jerseys for the occasion.
“I walked into the locker room and said, ‘Oh boy, you did it to me again,’” Hines said, chuckling. “I feel bad because I don’t want them to feel like they have to outdo themselves each year, but I talked to one of the parents afterward and they said the boys really love doing it.
“(Derek) was no different than those boys. There could be another Derek Hines in that (locker) room who goes on to West Point and does great things with his life.”
St. John’s Prep (4-5-1) hurt itself during the game Saturday by allowing their Catholic Conference rivals from Dorchester to score early in all three periods. B.C. High (8-0-2) took a 2-0 lead just 3:09 into the contest and never trailed; they also scored within the first minute of both the second and third periods to make a one-goal game a little bit more manageable with a two-score cushion.
B.C. High’s relentless forecheck made it difficult for the hosts to not only to get the puck out of their own zone at times, but simply set up defensively without running around chasing the puck. “Their speed and depth made that especially challenging,” said Hanson.
A net rush by Currier at 3:47 of the first period cut the Prep’s deficit to 2-1, with defenseman Evan Leclerc and Salem native Nick Latham assisting. Latham got on the scoresheet himself two minutes into the second frame, scoring on the power play with Currier and Evan Lynch earning the helpers.
Senior goaltender Brian Conroy, who replaced starter Zach Laramie 40 seconds into the second period, stopped 14 of 15 shots and kept the Eagles in the contest the rest of the way with steady play.
“We know they’re the top team in the state and it’s a true challenge to play them, a way to measure ourselves,” said Leclerc, another of the Prep’s captains. “We worked hard and did a lot of things well; we just didn’t come out on top.”
Maybe not on the scoreboard. But for what they did — and continue to do — to help remember Derek Hines and his legacy, the Eagles most certainly do.