Kevin Hayes is known for big-time moments since he made the move to the Philadelphia Flyers and Tuesday’s first goal of the season might go down as the most important for his veteran forward when his career is over.
Hayes scored his first goal of the 2021 season, in his second game back from offseason surgery, helping the Flyers earn a 2-1 home win over the Calgary Flames. That goal was also the first for Hayes since the tragic passing of his brother Jimmy this summer, a moment which Hayes will treasure in his heart for the rest of his playing days and life after his career has passed him.
“I’m happy it happened sooner rather than later honestly,” Hayes said postgame. “It was a big goal, trainers got the puck for me, I’m going to give it to Jimmy’s kid, Jimmy’s son Beau and it’ll be one I remember for forever.”
“I think you could see it on my face,” Flyers forward Cam Atkinson, who scored the eventual overtime winner, said about Hayes’ goal. “I think everything happens for a reason. I was the first guy to hug him. Got the puck for Kev, you know it’s a big goal, not one for our team but for Kev and like he said, we’ll all remember this for forever, a long long time. It was special.”
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) November 17, 2021
The Flyers have surely missed Hayes’ abilities on both ends of the ice through the early stages of the new season, but after missing the first 12 games, the gritty forward is back. Hayes made his season debut on Saturday in a 5-2 road loss to the Dallas Stars, but gave Flyers fans a quick remembrance of what he can bring to the offensive end of the ice.
His quick awareness allowed him to beat Jakob Markstrom on a rebound attempt after he originally looked for the cutting Atkinson in front of goal. Hayes finished the game with just under 15 minutes of ice time, to go along with three shots on goal and three hits. It was a positive ending to an emotional night for Hayes, who has continued to have support from his teammates, coaches, and opponents.
“He has worked real hard to comeback and help his teammates,” Vigneault said about Hayes. “For him in his second game to be able to score that goal which tied the game was big for us and obviously very nice for him. There is no doubt that it had a big significance for him personally. What him and his family and their close ones have had everyone to go through is obviously challenging. That whole group that whole family has been so positive and hopefully it is the start of many more to come.”
“Personally, really happy for him,” Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, who was Hayes’ teammate at Boston College said. “He’s gone through a lot these past few months. It’s hard because he’s on the other team so I didn’t want him to score, but I was happy for him, he deserved it.”
Hayes is in his third season with the Flyers and will now look to try and contribute even more goals along the way this season as the Orange and Black looks to keep pace in the stacked Metropolitan Division. The 29-year-old has registered 40 goals and 47 assists for 87 points in 142 combined appearances for the Flyers, playing a key role on five-on-fives, special teams, and on power play situations.
Hayes and the Flyers will next host the defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday before concluding a three-game homestand on Saturday vs. the Boston Bruins.
“Hayesy is a warrior and has been through a lot,” Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “He battles and has been going through a long recovery. I am sure it feels good for him to be back on the ice and it is great for us to have him back. He is doing everything he can to help the team win. If it is playing through something minor we know he is going to do it. He helped us a lot today.”