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We’re All Clippers Today

Emma Needham, Staff Writer

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Rivals. That’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about Barnstable and Falmouth; but in the past couple of weeks, that word has morphed into something entirely new — Friends.

By now, you’ve probably heard what happened. Two boys from Falmouth High School, James Lavin and Owen Higgins, were killed in a car accident after leaving their hockey practice on December 22, 2016. Lavin was killed instantly, and Higgins succumbed to his injuries early the next morning.

Throughout the tight-knit hockey community in which the boys had grown up, responses honoring their passing were immediate. If you have attended any hockey games in the area in the weeks following the tragedy, you probably noticed the absence of jerseys with numbers 10 and 19 on the ice, but rather they hang behind the bench. According to the Boston Herald, the “Framingham High School athletic director Paul Spear and Marshfield High hockey coach Dan Connolly came up with the idea of their teams hanging jerseys with the boys’ numbers behind the bench. An email went out and Number 10 and 19 began to appear all over the state.”
Nearly 200 schools have hung those jerseys behind their benches to show support to the boys’ families and to honor their lives. On January 2, the Clippers’ varsity boys hockey team played their first game back since the tragedy, with Lavin’s and Higgins’ jerseys hung behind Falmouth’s bench. The game was full of emotion – both on the ice and off, with packed stands and heartfelt speeches. The team triumphed that day, beating the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins 5-0. Many Falmouth teams now wear a stitched-on patch that shows a black ribbon, with “Lav” and “Higgy” spelled out down the sides, along with their numbers. This patch mirrors the decal on the ice of the Charles Moore Hockey Rink.
The outbreak of support spread beyond the high school hockey community as well. The Boston Bruins honored Higgins and Lavin with number 10 and 19 black and gold jerseys behind their bench before their game against the Buffalo Sabres earlier this year, the boys’ last names stitched across the backs. After the jerseys hung against the glass of the TD Garden, Bob Sweeney and Mike Dargin, along with Falmouth boys hockey coach Paul Moore, drove the jerseys (which had been signed by many players of the Bruins team) to the Lavin household and presented it to the respective families.

In addition to the Bruins, multiple organizations tweeted out their support, including the New England Patriots. Back in the fall sports season, Lavin and Higgins took the football field by storm – wearing numbers 44 and 56, respectively. They lead the Falmouth varsity football team to the high school Super Bowl Championship, defeating Marblehead 34-13 to win the state title.

Barnstable’s high school hockey teams have also made their support known. Tons of programs, including both Barnstable JV and varsity boys hockey teams, now don stickers with Lavin and Higgins’ hockey numbers on the backs of their helmets. The girls team have worn ribbons of maroon and white in their hair. Our school also created a banner, which you probably signed, down by the athletic office with the words “Falmouth Strong” written in bold letters. That banner hung in the hallways of the Falmouth high school.

In addition to teams and programs showing their support  during this tough time, the Massachusetts community and beyond donated to a GoFundMe page that will become a scholarship in the boys’ names.

In an interview with CBS Local, Moore stated, “There’s no road map for it, there’s no right or wrong way to move forward, you know we have to, but we do it with a lot of compassion.” Moore also stated that Lavin and Higgins were “Two remarkable young men who put their footprint on their community.” He continued,  “Not just in the classroom, not just in the ice arena, not just on the football field. Two extraordinary kids who had a lot of heart and a lot of character. Guys that I was proud to coach.”

Perhaps Ron Borges of the Boston Herald put it best: “Like hockey, life is a contact sport and it hurts sometimes, as it does now in Falmouth. But one day the pain will dull and memories of what those boys were all about will return.”

James and Owen’s legacy will live on, on the backs of hockey helmets, memorials in the Falmouth rink, and a scholarship in their name. Gone, but never forgotten.

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