NEW GLASGOW – When Brandon Thibeau was in minor hockey he started to honour someone important in his life through hockey by placing an MS sticker on his mask.
Now the starting goalie for the Weeks Crushers, Thibeau recently had his mask painted by Marc Goguen (Cocagne, N.B.) to remember not only his mother Gay, who was diagnosed with MS before he was born, but also those who were important to him getting where he is today.
From the stands fans can clearly see the Crushers logo painted on the top of the mask, but the details are where the mask comes to life, according to Thibeau.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve had a mask painted since I started playing hockey, but this time the guy that was painting it had the ability to put in more detail,” he said. “I wanted to put as much meaning into it as possible instead of a more general design and I think it turned out great.”
The top of the mask is solely the Crushers logo, but on the front he decided upon a New Brunswick licence plate and a saying, which runs along under the cage. The plate is because he is from Riverview, N.B., with “TBO 31” representing his nickname and number. Under the cage the saying decided upon by Thibeau was “I walk, run and skate for those who once could,” meant for his mother.
“My mom used to be a figure skater, so I put the saying on my mask because now she can’t skate and struggles to walk in general now because of the MS,” he said. “When I was in minor hockey I just had a sticker on my helmet for her. Just seeing her go through the tough things she has gone through I can look at that knowing that whatever I’m going through isn’t that bad and she’s had tougher days.”
Thibeau also has the MS logo painted on the back plate of the mask. He said he had the logo painted on his previous mask as well, but that he never told his mother he was going to do it. The first time she saw it was at an MS dinner in Moncton.
“I was speaking at the dinner where I had the mask for people to see and it was her first time seeing it as well,” said Thibeau. “She was extremely proud to see it and overjoyed. We’re extremely close and she’s always been my biggest inspiration so I wanted to do that for her.”
Growing up playing hockey on the pond with four of his closest friends – graduates of Riverview High School and fellow minor hockey players – Thibeau wanted to remember their memories of playing while growing up. The pond hockey is painted on both the left and right sides of the mask, with the names of Zach Holmden, Evan Collette, Colin Marshall and Jacob Marshall painted on the jerseys. He said they used every opportunity they had to get on the pond to play in the wintertime. As they got older that time lessened, but they still played when they had the chance.
On the back plate aside from the MS logo, Thibeau wanted to honour his cousin Daylan McNamara, who fought in Afghanistan and returned home, by painting his dog tags on the back.
Using the yellow ribbon, he wanted to remember Kevin Megeney, his billet family’s son, who passed away in Afghanistan. He said Dexter and Karen Megeney of Stellarton have become like his second family.
“They have become my home away from home,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to them about Kevin and learn his story, which is inspiring and makes you realize the worries on the ice aren’t always as big as off the ice.”
Dexter said Brandon asked him and his wife if it was all right for him to add the ribbon in memory of their son to his mask. This is the first time Dexter and Karen have billeted a player. He said it meant a lot to have Brandon do that.
“When he asked that meant a lot to us,” said Dexter. “It was unbelievable for a young man to do that because he had only been here for three or four months before asking. It was quite emotional when he said he was going to do that for Kevin having only known us.”
Finally there are two sets of initials on the bottom of the back plate, JT (Jeremy Thibeau, brother) and JR (Janik Robichaud, girlfriend). Thibeau said his brother never played hockey, but always had to put up with being at the rink when he played. He said Janik and he have been together for nearly four years and she has had to make sacrifices having a boyfriend away from home. He believes they have also done a lot to make him who he is.
“The whole theme is all about the people in my life that got me to where I am in life both on and off the ice,” said Thibeau. “They have helped me achieve what I have and I wanted to show them what it means to me aside from just saying it to them.”
Goals for: 156
Goals against: 148
Vs. Woodstock Slammers
Goals for: 163
Goals against: 146
Record against Slammers: 0-3
Game time: 7 p.m. at the Pictou County Wellness Centre