Tonight, I drove to Camrose, Alberta, to watch the U.S. beat Switzerland in a world junior exhibition.
I originally intended this blog to be about what it was like to watch Wild prospects Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle, but that can wait until Thursday.
That’s because tonight I received a text message:
“My dad died – Rochey”
The text was from my friend’s 11-year-old son, Kyle, … and with that my heart wept.
Tonight’s blog is dedicated to my friend Kevin Roche, who passed away at the age of 41 from a 3-year battle with cancer.
Kevin was a true-and-true Wild fan, an absolute hockey lover and entrenched in the Inver Grove Heights hockey community. He got no greater joy than watching "Rochey" and his young daughter, Sophia, strap on skates. Even when he was sick during his final days, Wendy would video tape Kyle’s games so Kevin could watch them at home and dissect every facet for the coaches.
He loved being inside hockey arenas and annually building “Roche Rink” in his backyard.
On Saturday, before leaving town for this road trip, I went to visit Kevin. I asked if he wanted me to bring anything. He texted me back, “Your favorite beer and Mikko Koivu.”
Here’s a look from his back window as we sat at his kitchen table that gorgeous Saturday afternoon.
As I tweeted the photo because it was such perfect “Minnesota,” Kevin made sure I wrote on the tweet, “Location undisclosed, otherwise there will be a line at the door.”
Most every morning for the last three years, before I even got out of bed, the first thing I’ve done is reach over to my nightstand, grab my phone and forward Kevin the NHL SportsScan so he could read the articles that appear in all 30 NHL markets every day. It’s why Kevin knew more about what was going on in the league than me.
This daily morning ritual will be an excruciating habit to break.
Tonight, my only thoughts are with Kevin’s unbelievably strong wife, Wendy, his beautiful children, Kyle and Sophie, his brother and one of my best friends Mike, his brother John, his incredible mother Francine and all of Kevin’s friends and family members who have fractured hearts tonight.
On Nov. 27 during the Derek Boogaard tribute at Xcel Energy Center, Kevin texted me, “Prayers for Boogaard and his family. He was a good man!”
Kevin was particularly referring to how Boogey treated his children three years ago after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Kevin, buddy, you were a great man. You’re at peace now, but I can’t even convey how much you’ll be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to cross your path. And I’ll especially miss talking and texting hockey with you.