Dear Jay Beagle–
You most likely don’t remember him, but he remembers meeting you.
The first time he met you was at an arena in Newark. Max and I traveled up to New Jersey to see the Caps play on the road. We made the trip up and back in one night because Max was playing in his championship hockey game the next day. You were on the ice warming up before the game and my little guy had wormed his way into a restricted section to watch–a lone Caps fan in a sea of Devils fans. He banged on the glass and when he thought you were looking at him he told you, so earnestly, about the championship. Maybe you heard him, or maybe you just saw that he desperately wanted to tell you something. You flipped him a puck, pointing to make sure all the New Jersey fans knew exactly where you meant it to go. Max carried that puck in his hockey bag the next day for luck. They won. That puck now sits on our mantel and Max tells the story over and over.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday. Thanks to a magical gift, Max and I had tickets to see the Caps play your rivals the Penguins. Our tickets were right behind your bench, right on the tunnel that led to the ice. As you all marched out onto the ice, so many of your teammates were doing what they do to get ready, getting their head in the game, eyes intensely focused forward, seeing nothing but the ice, blocking out the arena and making only space for the game. It was thrilling simply to be so close. Yet everytime you came out, (or for that matter went back into the locker room), you, Jay Beagle, you high-fived my boy, or bonked him on the head with your stick. Every time you smiled at him. All eight times. Yup. We were counting.
You may not think it was that big a deal Jay Beagle but I am saying that it is. For you did something magical. You, with all your NHL hero status, you took a minute to with your eyes, your hands, your smile to see an individual in a thumping, throbbing crowd. You saw him there with his face all painted red and his sign and his mardi gras beads. And then, with a simple gesture you told him over and over that he mattered. You let him know that his energy, his presence, his excitement meant something to the world, that it changed things. And with that gesture you changed the world. For Max. For me. For every little boy who wants to grow up to be like you one day.
You are a very young man Jay Beagle, just 26 years old. You don’t make nearly what your superstar teammates make. And yet you are wise beyond your years and richer than those whose salary dwarfs yours. You know something that many old men do not. You know that the most important gift you can give is your presence, your acknowledgment. You know that seeing is indeed everything. If I was your mother, I would be very very proud of you, not for your NHL contract but for who you touch now in that role. I would be so proud of how you noticed that little boy who just wanted to touch your hand.
Jay Beagle, thank you. As a hockey mom, I hope all those little boys reaching out their hands across the years, to touch you, to touch the possibility that they too might one day play on the big ice rinks, I hope they all grow up to be wise like you.