News / Halifax

Big smile, big heart, big impact: Jordan Boyd's parents speak about son's tragic death

The Bathurst Titan's team photo of Jordan Boyd shows a resolute young man focusing a steely, deadpan gaze on the camera - but there’s a crack in the tough-guy attitude: one corner of his mouth is quirking upwards, evidence of his normal beaming smile fighting to break through.

“I'm sure they told him to look tough, but he always had a smile on his face and that's what everybody remembers about him,” said Jordan’s father Stephen on Thursday.

It’s been nearly two months since the 16-year-old collapsed and died during an on-ice training camp session with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Titan.

His mother Debbie says it’s been two months of “living hell,” grieving for her six-foot-one “baby boy” who she watched over at umpteen games and practices over the years.

“He was my full-time job,” said Debbie, often fighting to speak through tears. “Even when he was away at school last year … he lost his phone a couple of times because he was texting me from class, happy about a good mark or something.”

The Bedford Minor Hockey Association has renamed the annual Oktoberfest hockey tournament in Jordan’s honour, and his parents will be on hand for the opening ceremony Friday evening at the BMO Centre.

Stephen said he wants people know who Jordan was – a good student considering a career in sports medicine, a devoted friend and boyfriend who loved mugging for the camera, a wakeboarding enthusiast and health nut who held his nose to chug coconut water but couldn’t say no to a juicy steak.

Above all else, Jordan was a hockey zealout who was thrilled to have earned his place on the Titan.

“He picked up a hockey stick when he was two so that was always his passion,” said Stephen. “Several teachers over the years have said, ‘His stories are great, but can he write about something other than hockey?’”

Most telling about Jordan’s character are the letters that poured in after his death from complete strangers, telling about his kindness. One woman told them he was the only kid who’d stuck up for her daughter when classmates started bullying her. A Bathurst mom sent photos of Jordan with her young son during Community Day with the Titan in June, the little boy ecstatic over scoring a ball hockey goal after Jordan made a point of giving him the ball.

“I don’t watch hockey, but I thought I’m going to watch that young man,” wrote the grateful mother.

The Boyds say it’s knowing their son touched so many people that gives them strength to attend public events in his honour.

“I never want my son forgotten,” said Debbie. “If it helps keep his memory alive, then it's worth the pain.”

Cause of hockey player's death still unknown

The Boyds say they’re still waiting for the autopsy report to tell them what caused the death of their strapping and apparently fit young son.

But they say Jordan trained all summer, doing hill sprints in the muggy weather, without any symptoms of any problems.

“As far as we knew, he was never healthier,” said Stephen Boyd. “He went through a pretty rigorous workout program with a trainer this summer.”

Typically, sudden deaths in young athletes are caused by hidden heart defects or abnormalities that don’t show up on routine examinations – but can sometimes be detected through screening tests.

Debbie Boyd said Jordan was so health-conscious he ate almond butter instead of peanut butter, wouldn’t drink Gatorade because of the sugar content, and even swore off hamburgers.

“He was healthy. He never had a sign,” she said. “I was the type of mom that, if he had a cough, he'd be at the doctor.”

The Boyds say they’re hoping the devastating loss of their youngest son will lead to increased awareness about hidden heart defects, and more extensive testing of high-performance athletes.

“I just hope that something good comes of my boy's death,” said Debbie.

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