This is from a column I wrote from this weekend’s benefit game for Brad Fox, the Plymouth Township policeman killed in the line of duty.
OAKS — I begin this column with full disclosure: I am a third-year USA Hockey-certified official. I have officiated a lot of ice hockey games so far in my relatively brief career. And some of those games included a player by the name of Brad Fox.
Fox was a member of a team called the Blueliners who play at Center Ice in Oaks where I spend a lot of my free time. I am an adult rink rat and fully admit it and am somewhat proud of it. I love the smell of the rink. The ice, the air, which is crisp and clear. The people I have met there have become friends. That is, until we hit the ice.
As an official, there is a lot of grief to go around. The favorite joke lately is that we officials are like the Titanic — we’re great until we “hit the ice.” Yes, enjoy the good laugh at our expense. But most of us officiate because we love the game and we love the people who play it. Hockey players are unlike any other athletes. They combine the skills of ice skating, stickhandling and the endurance of skating for minutes at a time at full speed. They take full blown hits from other players, the boards, pucks, you name it. And they come back for more.
There are some players who drive you nuts. They complain about everything. There are some players who say very little. They just play the game, get changed and go home. There are players who like me enjoy the camaraderie of being on the ice. They will talk to you, joke with you, and yes, sometimes yell at you. But at the end of the game when the horn sounds, we’re all brothers (and sisters too, as there are women who play in the men’s leagues).
Brad Fox was one of those players who seemed to just come to play the game. No, I didn’t know him like he was my best friend. I knew him a little bit and knew he was a cop. He was a very good hockey player and obviously was loved by his teammates. We have two teams at Oaks made up mostly of police officers. I fondly joke with them that they are the worst behaved bunch at the rink.
And while the cop teams are extremely competitive, they play the game like they do their jobs. They have each others’ backs — which by the way sometimes lands them in the penalty box. But they do their “time” and happily return to the ice to fight the battle again.
The guy kept his promise — much to the misery of the Fox family, his friends and his teammates.
But while the gunman kept his promise to shoot a cop, what he couldn’t do was kill the spirit of his fellow officers. Nor the spirit of his family, which lives in New Hanover. Nor that of his extended family, which hits the ice a couple times a week to play the world’s most beautiful sport.
Hundreds turned out Saturday night at Center Ice in Oaks to pay tribute to Fox. They raised a lot of money for his widow Lynsay, who is pregnant with their second child, and their daughter Kadence. People were generous with donations and supported the fundraising effort — something that will mean a lot to the officer’s family.
Time will move on and it will get better for Lynsay Fox. It will never be the same for her or her children. There is a void and a hole too huge to ever be filled. But she will have the love and support of her family and Brad’s friends.
For the somewhat rookie ice hockey official in me, I know the next time I officiate a game that involves the Blueliners, jersey No. 5 — Fox’s number — won’t be on the ice. It will hurt a little to do those games because I understand the gravity of what happened a little more than a month ago. A good guy, a dad, a husband and a darned good hockey player is gone forever.
But like all good hockey players, his cop friends will never forget. Let’s not let his spirit go any time soon.
And perhaps I will drop a puck or two the next Blueliners game knowing Fox is watching all of us.
— And Hachadorian