Days after the lives of 14 classmates and three educators came to a sudden end, the hockey team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took the ice at the Florida Hockey State Championship. What happened next is remarkable.
Matt Horowitz, Matt Hauptman and Joey Zenobi all lost friends in the Parkland shooting. But they moved forward to play in the tournament to honor those who died and their families. They were not the favorites.
“Going into the semi-final game Sunday morning, I’m sure everyone was just expecting an early ride home, but we put up a fight and we didn’t let that early ride home happen,” Horowitz said.
The players and friends dyed their hair yellow to remember Joaquin Oliver, a charismatic, newly declared U.S. citizen, and the album he loved so much, “Blonde,” by Frank Ocean. Oliver was killed that day in the shooting.
Stoneman Douglas, the low seed in the tournament, was 0-3 going into the final two final games. But something happened on the ice in the semi-finals and finals. Something beyond improbable. By winning two pressure-packed, unbelievably emotional games, the Eagles became state champs this past weekend for the first time ever.
“We brought everything together and just pulled through to win this championship,” said Hauptman.
A bittersweet celebration on the ice was followed by an even more poignant one at the school. There were 17 people killed in Parkland — 17 memorials now sit on campus. On Sunday — not by design, but perhaps form of divine intervention — there were 17 players on the ice.
“Before the game, as a team in the locker room, we decided if we won we were going to go back to Douglas after the game, if we won, and each one stand behind a cross or a Jewish star and put a medal on each one of them,” said Horowitz.
That’s exactly what they did.
“Everyone who was at the school came out and kind of circled around us and then as we explained what we did, we had a round of applause, there was just a lot of emotion and it definitely brought happiness to see,” said Hauptman. “Just sharing of just love. Just a lot of love.”