Anyone who knows me knows I started this website for a couple of major reasons:
1) I’m a terrible employee when it comes to journalism, and to an extent, I’m almost positive I was born to really be my own boss at stuff like this.
2) In what was my fourth season working Bentley Falcons hockey, there really was no press coverage, and I needed a vehicle from which I could drive coverage of a team really deserving it. I covered this in an article back during hockey season.
There was still a third reason I’ve tried to find a use for, and I’ve failed miserably at. Given my personal experiences with cancer and my personal connection to people who’ve suffered from the insidious disease, I’d taken it upon myself to try and highlight stories reflecting cancer patients and survivors. I kind of considered it my own crusade since I rarely got the chance to do a Relay For Life, Breast Cancer Three-Day, or anything else.
For years, I’d never been able to really be a “causehead.” A “causehead” is someone who takes up a cause and drives it home every minute of their life. They work and work for that cause, dedicated to the message, delivering something everyone can get behind. They’re political, activist, whatever. You can be a causehead realistically for anything you’re really passionate about. For me, it’s always been about finding a cure for cancer.
After a few months of doing this whole “Legacy” idea and trying to push stories of people persevering through cancer, I received a gift-wrapped story covering nearly every single one of my bases. The Bentley hockey team got involved, as many college hockey teams did, with an organization called “Team Impact.” Team Impact paired kids with a life-threatening illness up with a college sports program. The program accepted the patient as one of their own, showed them around, gave them an experience they’d never forget, almost in sort of a “Make-A-Wish” type of fashion.
Bentley was paired with a teenage high school guy named Michael Eden. It made for great press; Michael suffered from a type of cancer called “rhabdomyosarcoma” (I think that’s how it’s spelled), which I still don’t really understand. He got the chance to skate with the team at practice, take a team picture, get a custom home gold uniform, and get a locker in the Bentley locker room.
I’m well aware that Bentley clearly isn’t Boston College on the college hockey landscape. But the reception from the team was fantastic. Mike blended instantly into the team, and it wasn’t uncommon to see him skating after a home game, even the losses, echoing the stick off the ice as he launched pucks at Branden Komm. He became as much a part of the team as the Falcons Nest, the coaching staff, the equipment manager, and the press box crew. Down the stretch of the season, Mike came on the air a couple of times with Rory Duyon and me, giving us his opinion on what he was seeing.
He was actually really good at the broadcasting thing… not even joking. He probably could’ve done color commentary without a problem for a whole game. But I digress.
As the playoffs came, Mike rolled up his sleeves, put on his jersey, and went to work with the team. When the team dispatched Sacred Heart in the first round, he was there for all three games. When the team went to Rochester to play RIT, he was there. I wasn’t; we didn’t broadcast the games that weekend. But Mike put himself in the car, gutted out the trip to that bucolic, bustling metropolis in New York, and rooted the team on to a near series victory.
Sadly, Michael Eden passed away this week, succumbing in his fight against the insidious disease. As word trickled out and spread to Bentley’s players, scattered across the nation as they’ve moved back home, social media exploded with Tweets and Facebook statuses. Nearly every single player within reach of a computer put something up, all referring to Mike as a “teammate” and a “friend.” The Falcons Nest, who also accepted Mike as one of their own, also paid tribute in their own right, a group of students who befriended him in the stands with their rambunctious and borderline-vulgar chants at opponents.
From a personal standpoint, this is what struck me the most. Mike Eden entered the Bentley Falcons’ lives in January, with the season half over. He spent less than three months as a member of the Falcons. Yet in that time, he was able, with his fight against cancer, to inspire the team to a near-qualification in Atlantic Hockey’s conference championship weekend.
All season long, the rallying cry for the Falcons was “JAR Pride.” We had an article on this website about what JAR Pride meant. It meant that you might not win your game or your fight, but it’s going to take everything the opponent had in order to defeat you. It took RIT two overtimes and three games to beat Bentley’s hockey team (after they blew a 4-1 third period lead in the 2-OT Game 2) on the ice. And it took everything cancer could throw at Michael.
The funny thing that strikes me, though, is that cancer didn’t win this fight. On the physical surface, you’d think that was the case, at least. But the sadness of losing a teammate isn’t diminishing the message of what Mike brought to the table. His perseverance through his battle delivered the message that there’s absolutely nothing that can stand in anybody’s way, and that you can fight through everything. Even if the diagnosis isn’t so great, even if the days are looking dark, it’s still worth fighting. Personally, I never heard him feel sorry for himself or complain once, and he had a heckuva reason to do so. It made complaining about a work day or traffic more trivial, and it taught each and every one of us a little bit more about how to suck it up.
All of this came from a 15-year old high school kid. Yeah, it’s nice to think about the powder-puff, feel-good side of the story sufficing #1 on my objectives above. It’s great to talk about Bentley really taking this kid on as one of their own, accepting him with genuine affection and friendship. They really do view him as a teammate, after all.
But I’m choosing more to hit the third objective with this. I’ve talked about JAR Pride, and I’ve talked about what it means to have JAR Pride. You’re not the biggest dog in the fight, but you got the biggest fight in a dog. All of that can be learned from Mike. Sometimes it’s confusing, and we don’t understand why things happen. But I think in the long run, what we learned from this short relationship is more than anything that can be taught in a classroom.
I don’t see this relationship between Mike Eden and Bentley hockey ending. I’m seeing a renewed purpose in Bentley to help fight cancer, something I can’t implore everyone to do enough. Everyone should step up to the plate, get involved in some capacity, even if it’s just by talking about it. That’s what I hope to deliver with this message. There will be time for tears, and there will be time for tribute. But just to talk about it will make you hug your loved ones a little bit tighter, appreciate what you have around you, and appreciate the message that this young boy can deliver to all of us. We can all have a little bit of JAR Pride. In doing that, cancer cannot defeat us.
To the Eden family, my deepest condolences. But know that this fight is still on, and we’re not going to lose. JAR Pride.