Release Date : 10/25/2016
MONSEY, NY – Shortly before the opening face-off of his 14U Valley Forge Colonials Atlantic Youth Hockey League Futures matchup with the Ramapo Saints Sunday evening, defenseman Declan Kennedy (Royersford, PA) calmly stepped to center ice for the most important moment of his young career.
Although wins and losses matter to players, coaches, and teams, the ceremonies that took place prior to Sunday’s game were far more important to all those in attendance.
On November 30, 2012, Sport-O-Rama’s Rink Two was renamed the “TK Rink” in honor of former Ramapo Saints player, Major Thomas E. Kennedy. Kennedy was killed in action on August 8, 2012, while serving the United States in his sixth tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was the victim of an apparent suicide bombing on Army leaders en route to a meeting with Afghani officials. Kennedy skated with the Saints from 1985-94.
The rededication of the rink at Sport-O-Rama was an organizational response to a request made by Squirt Minor head coach Billy Fortescue to honor his lifelong family friend and former teammate with the Saints. Sunday evening’s game presented the first opportunity for Kennedy’s nephew, Declan, to play on the surface renamed for his fallen uncle.
“It is with great pride that we have players, coaches, managers and parents in our organization that recognize and honor the sacrifices that others make, and then make that extra effort to make sure somebody such as Declan can have the experience of playing in the rink named after his uncle,” said Saints President Joe Brooks.
After his youth hockey career concluded, Kennedy left the Saints and moved ahead to the Salisbury School (CT), where he served as team captain in his final season at the prestigious prep school.
Following his time in Connecticut, Kennedy continued his academic and hockey career at West Point, where he also began his long career of service to the citizens of the United States. Thomas had 12 years of commissioned service, serving his country in Iraq, Korea, Washington, Oklahoma, and Afghanistan. While serving his country around the globe, Kennedy found time to give back to the sport he loved, serving as the hockey program’s officer representative at West Point for four years. He was also President of the Army Hockey Association.
A decorated officer, Kennedy was awarded two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart, three Army Commendation Medals, a Parachutist Badge, and a Ranger Tab among his many accolades. He was awarded an additional Bronze Star posthumously. In addition to the renaming of the rink at Sport-O-Rama, Salisbury also honored the fallen hero on December 1, 2012 before the varsity hockey team’s home opener that season.
Prior to the game, Declan stepped to center ice to take the ceremonial puck drop with his father, George, Thomas’ brother. The Saints also wore special “TK’s Army” camouflage jerseys for the event.
As for the game itself, the Saints used a two-goal first period to open a 2-0 lead en route to a 4-0 victory. Ethan Ladka (Warwick, NY) pitched the 18-save shutout for Ramapo. But despite coming out on the losing side of scoreboard, getting to partake in the pregame ceremonies was worth so much more to the Colonials program.
“It was an honor to be a part of the ceremony to honor an American hero,” said Valley Forge head coach Keith Grimley. “I didn’t know Tommy “TK” Kennedy, but I do know his brother, George and his nephew, Declan. They are a first class family.”
“It’s clear that TK was a real life American hero and touched the lives of many people,” Grimley continued. “The Valley Forge players played the game in TK’s honor. Many thanks to the Ramapo Saints organization for making it a very special day and a special thanks to all those that fight for our freedoms.”