A one-of-a-kind, game-worn Halifax Mooseheads jersey will soon be framed and treasured by a player’s family, in honour of a mother who “means everything.”
Getting the QMJHL team’s jersey, however, required the power of social media.
Mooseheads forward Braeden MacPhee was donning the jersey Nov. 4, when he scored a goal during the special Mooseheads Fight Cancer night versus the Sherbrook Phoenix.
In an emotional moment, he dedicated that goal to his mother, Jolene Conway, who passed away in April after a battle with colon cancer.
“It was a really special moment. It felt really good and felt like my mom was right there with me,” recalled Braeden MacPhee.
His father, Shaun MacPhee, and his younger brother, Mark, were watching the game online at their Moncton, N.B., home, beaming with pride.
“For him to get his second (goal) of the year on that night, I knew it meant a lot,” Shaun MacPhee said.
“You see the camera pan over to the bench and you see some of the boys with their hands on him. And you could tell he had a tear run down his eye from it. From a dad’s perspective, it was a very touching moment for me.”
Braeden describes his mother as a dedicated, hard-working woman who supported her sons’ passion for sports.
“She made sure she’d come to all of our games. She made us meals before every one. She was super special and I’m so thankful for all that,” he said.
Braeden’s parents had decided to keep the severity of her illness to themselves for as long as they could.
“They thought mentally, if I knew that my mom was home with cancer, it would affect me more. And that just goes to show how much my mom really cared about me, wanted to make sure that I was OK with everything,” he said.
Shaun said she passed away April 28 “peacefully with all of us by her side.” Braeden describes how he mustered the strength to head back into the playoffs the day after her funeral.
“She wanted me to get back in the thing. So that’s exactly what I did and I felt mentally prepared to do so.”
All of this meant that the game on Nov. 4 held a special place in the hearts of the MacPhee family.
The Mooseheads, along with other Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams, hold dedicated nights to raise money for cancer research.
The purple Mooseheads Fight Cancer jerseys were auctioned off after the game, with proceeds to be donated to the Halifax Mooseheads Charitable Foundation Inc.
Season ticket-holder Dianne Quigley was at that game with her husband and grandkids. They had grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant across from the arena just before the game when they spotted someone wearing last year’s Mooseheads Fight Cancer jersey.
“I had commented to her that I really liked it and she told us a little bit of the story behind that,” Quigley recalled.
“During the game, I mentioned to my husband that I really liked the jersey and I’d like to have one, and he decided that he was going to bid on one of them.“
Her husband’s favourite player happens to be MacPhee, so he went to work bidding on the online auction.
What the Quigleys didn’t know was that while they were making bids on MacPhee’s jersey, so was the player’s father.
Shaun had made a vow to win that jersey a year ago, at last year’s Mooseheads Fight Cancer night.
“Jolene was still with us. At that point I said to myself, ‘We should get this jersey just for sentimental reasons’” he said.
“I kind of forget what happened. But I didn’t get it, of course, last year.”
In light of his son’s emotional goal and Jolene’s passing, Shaun was determined to win this jersey.
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“I said to myself, ‘OK, Shaun, you need to get this this jersey this year,’” he said. “So before I left on a quick vacation, I made sure I was the top bidder.”
He even set an alarm on his phone’s calendar to check on the week-long auction before it ended, but in a twist of fate, the change in time zones meant he missed out before the auction closed.
The winner? The Quigleys. For $750.
“Honestly, my heart sank,” Shaun recalled.
“I typically don’t get upset, but Sunday night when I was in the hotel room, I was upset. I was upset at myself. I was disappointed in myself. I was disappointed at how Braeden would feel because we wanted that jersey to get framed.”
So “bright and early Monday,” Shaun said he put a “desperate plea” on Facebook. He was looking for the winners of that auction, to see if they were willing to sell it.
“I was touched by how quickly it got shared and commented on. And I wasn’t looking for pity. I was just looking for if anyone knew who got it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Quigleys were on a vacation of their own. They had been packing up for Florida when they got the email notifying them they had placed the winning bid for the jersey.
While they were in Florida, they were sent that Facebook post alerting them to Shaun’s quest.
“I did a little bit of research and found out the story behind the jersey. So it was without hesitation. Of course, it was his,” Quigley said.
The two families spoke briefly and the stars aligned.
The MacPhees will be getting their jersey after all.
“There’s still a lot of good in this in this world. And the support that we received as a family over the past couple of weeks with everything going on here, (and) just the past number of months, has been overwhelming,” Shaun said.
The jersey is still in the team’s possession, so Braeden was able to proudly show it to Global News on Tuesday.
The hockey sweater will soon be framed and have a special spot in the family’s game room alongside the puck he scored the goal with, and the little card that Braeden had filled out prior to the game that declared his inspiration.
— with files from Global News’ Callum Smith