ASU hockey to honor deceased young hockey player during 2015 season
Video by Ben Margiott | Multimedia Reporter
It all started with a phone call.
Business entrepreneurship freshman McKenzie Nelson, like the rest of her family, was blindsided by the phone call saying that her cousin Patrick, 14, had passed away without notice.
Her cousin, whose spirit and joy were contagious, was gone.
"I just kind of shut down (when I found out)," Nelson said. "I didn't really know what to do. I just started crying, knowing that I wasn't home."
Patrick Schoonover died doing what he loved most — playing hockey. Just moments after scoring the opening goal in a local Minnesota youth hockey tournament, he collapsed onto the ice. Paramedics were unable to revive him.
Patrick died of a heart defect that November evening that went unnoticed during team physicals, shocking family and the local hockey community alike.
"You just have to get the tests done," Nelson said. "Physicals don't do enough. We're trying to get it so that these tests for heart defects are required along with the physical."
A local talent regarded both for his talent on the ice and his personality off the ice, Patrick's loss was a heavy one.
"He was always the jokester and standing up for kids in school," Nelson said. "He was just a really good kid."
In order to spread his legacy, Nelson went to the same community that had embraced her cousin so strongly — hockey.
"That was (Patrick's) passion growing up," Nelson said. "Being from Minnesota, the whole hockey community came together as one when he passed away. There were so many different teams at the service and at the funeral, and it just shows that Minnesota is the state of hockey and that it really brings everyone together."
The community took to Patrick's story immediately. Let's Play Hockey, a popular hockey magazine, teamed up with the NHL's Minnesota Wild to create an award in his honor.
As part of her "Play For Patrick" campaign, Nelson is trying to share Patrick's story and raise money to make testing affordable through the University of Minnesota to prevent this from happening again.
After hearing about ASU's move to the Division I level just weeks after Patrick's passing, she knew she wanted to reach out to the team.
"I thought that bringing (Patrick's) legacy across the country (to ASU) would help it grow," Nelson said. "I emailed coach Powers, and he got back to me within 20 minutes, and they were all for it."
ASU coach Greg Powers, himself a father to two young children, was more than willing to assist.
"I don't think anybody wouldn't have done what she requested and they seem like a great hockey family," Powers said. "They're a part of the Sun Devil family, because she is a Sun Devil, so it was a no-brainer for us to support Patrick's memory."
"Obviously you think about your own children, and you think about your players," he said. "My players to me are also like family. Any time something like that happens at such a young age, it's unfortunate."
The team was all for it.
"They're hockey players," Powers said. "They get it. That's part of our responsibility as a college program to support the community and their efforts. It's a no-brainer. We've done things like this before and we'll do them again."
Powers said the loss of such a young life reinforces the fact that hockey itself is just a game.
"We never let reality seep out of our players and our program," Powers said. "We always preach family first and culture. If everything's right in that regard and you're family above all else, then success will translate onto the ice."
He saw this season as a way to help Nelson and her family move forward.
The Sun Devils will wear the "Play For Patrick" stickers on their helmets for the remainder of the 2015 season, looking to honor him in the best way possible — by winning a second consecutive ACHA national championship.
ASU wore the stickers at home for the first time against Stony Brook on Thursday, and when sophomore forward Ryan Belonger scored the opening goal, he raised his arms in the air to celebrate.
Just like Patrick did.
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