Hayes motivated for Flyers this season by memory of late brother

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Kevin Hayes will play with the memory of his brother, Jimmy Hayes, motivating him this season.

Jimmy Hayes, who played for four NHL teams in seven seasons, died Aug. 24.

“It’s going to be weird stepping on the ice for the first time knowing that my brother’s not there,” the Philadelphia Flyers forward said Friday. “He honestly was my biggest supporter. If I had a bad game it was ‘AV’s (coach Alain Vigneault’s) fault, not mine. If I wasn’t playing a lot of minutes he wanted to talk to AV, he wanted to talk to (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher}. It’s something that I’ll miss, and it’s something that I think will really push me this year when I’m having bad days or bad games or not playing up to how all the fans want me to. Try to think of my brother and hopefully he’ll push me through.

“It’s been a tough month; it’s been a month and one day. Life is fragile, honestly, and it’s never fun to lose someone who’s your best friend and someone you’ve looked up to and been paired with your whole entire life. … My brother was a special person, honestly. He touched a lot of lives. He really enjoyed life and really enjoyed helping others, and it [stinks] that he’s gone, and it happened way too fast.”

Hayes said the support he received from all parts of hockey community was overwhelming. Claude Giroux, Justin Braun and Joel Farabee were among his Flyers teammates who bused up from the Philadelphia area to attend Jimmy Hayes’ funeral service in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He also said a number of players and NHL executives reached out, among them Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke and captain Sidney Crosby, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban.

“It’s been incredible, the support … when we’re on the ice, it is truly a battle and we want to win every game, but the hockey community is a really special community and it goes much further than playing against each other on the ice,” Hayes said. “I was totally taken back with the support that I’ve received and from some of the people that still to this day check in.”

Video: NHL Tonight discusses Jimmy Hayes’ passing

Hayes said being back around his teammates has been helpful in the grieving process. He has been living with defenseman Keith Yandle, a teammate for two seasons with the New York Rangers who signed a one-year contract with the Flyers on July 28.

“He’s probably my best friend in the entire world after my brother, and the fact that he’s living with me is special,” Hayes said. “We obviously thought I’d have some bad days and he’s an awesome dude. … He just makes it a lot easier. Then Cam Atkinson was my brother’s roommate at school, I’ve known Cam a long time. ‘Brass’ (Derick Brassard), I played with him early in my career [with the Rangers]. He used to come to Boston, be with me and my brother all the time. ‘Reemer’ (James van Riemsdyk) played with my brother for a while. … People are saying that I got all my friends here, but it’s cool how things played out and I think it will make everything a lot easier.”

Hayes had surgery Tuesday to repair a lower-body injury and is expected to need 6-8 weeks to recover. He said the injury is similar to the one he had surgery to repair in May.

“About two weeks ago I felt something, just an everyday injury that hockey players deal with,” he said. “Took a couple of days off, went on the ice, very short. … Went home to see my family, came back on Monday, felt amazing, was the best I felt in two weeks. Then I went for a breakaway and something happened where it all kind of came apart. No one’s at fault. I don’t think it was avoidable; I think it was inevitable it was going to happen from two or three weeks ago when something happened.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened. It [stinks], it felt really good all summer and now I’m out for a little bit of time. Just unlucky.”

He’ll be doing his rehabilitation work in the Philadelphia area.

“I asked AV if I could try to be around the team as much as I can and do my rehab when they’re on the ice,” he said. “So when they’re finishing, I’m finishing, and when they’re in the gym I can kind of be hanging out. It does make it a lot easier.”

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