On a decision made up entirely by the players, the Bishop Feehan boys hockey team played its first game Friday since A.J. Quetta’s hospitalization from a significant injury he suffered earlier this week that shook up many communities in New England, losing 5-2 to Austin Prep.
A banner that read “AJ’s Army” hung on the wall behind the bench for the game, continuing a massive showing of support for the teammate facing potentially lifelong injuries after crashing into the boards awkwardly against Pope Francis on Tuesday. Feehan held an emotional ceremony before the game in which Quetta’s sisters, Elyse and Ella, spoke in front of players and parents attending the contest, and players from both teams knelt together as a sign of unity and support for Quetta.
In somewhat therapeutic fashion, the rest of the night was all about hockey.
“The neat thing I would say is that within a couple minutes of the game starting, it all felt like hockey,” said Bishop Feehan president Tim Sullivan. “We had parents cheering for their kids, and …. it all just felt like hockey, and that felt really good. I think that was really good for the boys.”
News of Quetta’s traumatic injury quickly swept across New England and national outlets, as many within the community have spread the word to gather as much support as possible for Quetta and his family.
The Boston Bruins, Robert Kraft, the Hartford Whalers, Northeastern University, WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show and many other public figures are all on that list to honor Quetta in their own ways over the last few days, helping raise close to a million dollars for medical expenses. High schools and their hockey programs across the state have all posted messages of support of Quetta and the Bishop Feehan community, leading to thousands of individual donations to fundraisers through GoFundMe, the Greg Hill Foundation and the school. Pope Francis, in particular, is selling No. 10 Shamrocks stickers on the high school front, while the Bruins are donating at least $100,000 and their players reiterate their support.
Sullivan has spoken with the Quettas and provided updates to everyone following along, passing the message that Mrs. Quetta said the family is extremely touched and are “forever in debt,” to those who have contributed and keep them in their well wishes. She has texted with the team to relay things A.J. wanted to say to the guys, and he was in full support of the Shamrocks taking the ice.
The decision to play was entirely on the players, as the situation has been extremely hard on everyone.
“I think there was a little bit of worry on the parents’ part before the game. You know, how are their sons ready,” Sullivan said. “You’ve got friends who are teenage young men, that’s one thing, and you have a lot of parents who really relate to the Quettas. It all comes together, and it’s difficult for sure. Hard week.”
Overall, it was a good night for the players to get back to hockey and continue to show their support for Quetta.
“I’m not quite qualified to say, but I do think normalcy – I think snapshots of normalcy is good,” Sullivan said.