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All heart: Halifax hockey community comes together to celebrate Jordan Boyd’s life

Jordan Boyd’s mother greets participants and supporters who have stopped by the BMO Centre with a genuinely warm and welcoming smile.

Debbie Boyd is clearly thrilled to see the Bedford hockey rink swarming with family, friends, community members and many others who have been moved by her son’s story, and have come to take part in the game he loved Saturday at the Jordan Boyd Celebrity Hockey Challenge.

But whenever she stops to chat with someone about Jordan, such as about how much he would have loved this star-studded tournament, her eyes start to water, the potential for tears hovering just below the surface.

It was less than a year ago that the big-hearted 16-year-old, with even bigger hockey dreams, suddenly collapsed and died while training on ice with the Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

 Jordan Boyd

Jordan Boyd

As it is still rather difficult for Debbie to talk publicly about Jordan in the past tense, other family members step in front of the video cameras and take care of the interviews to share memories of an up-and-coming young hockey player’s life that was cut far too short.

“Jordan was a wonderful young man, he had a lot of friends, and he was very well-liked,” father Stephen Boyd said outside the arena.

“So I’m not surprised in a sense … that we’ve seen this outpouring of support,” he said, “but I am; it’s not a lot of time to plan this event.”

It was just two months ago that Jordan’s older brother, Greg Dobson, came up with the idea to host the Jordan Boyd Celebrity Hockey Challenge, in support of both the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Jordan Boyd Leadership Award for amateur players who demonstrate leadership and sportsmanship.

Jordan’s family has all undergone heart screening since his death, and 22-year-old Dobson was diagnosed with uncommon Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, or WPW, and the same condition it turned out his brother had, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, or ARVD for short.

“Our son Greg … said, ‘There has been enough sadness, I want to have a celebration of his life,' so I said ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.’ ”

"He would have thought this is something else," Boyd said of how Jordan would have reacted to the tournament's successful turn-out.

Six teams took to the ice Saturday, a mish-mash of senior adult players, rising stars and well-known pros, sharing laughs and enjoying the game they love, connecting them to Jordan whether they knew him or not.

“We were at camp when we heard ... the whole league was in shock,” said forward Liam O’Brien of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, and a Halifax native.

“Just being in the Q … it’s definitely touched a lot of people,” added forward Ryan Penny of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who is from Fall River.

Local NHL star power on the ice Saturday included Andrew Bodnarchuk, Nathan MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, Shawn O’Donnell, Darren Rumble, James Sheppard, Zach Sill and Jon Sim.

Boston Bruins forward Marchand is a Boyd family friend, and donated several highly sought after items to the silent auction. He grinned as he wiped the sweat of his brow.

“I haven’t skated a whole lot this summer, so I’m a little winded. I think this is my fifth ice session, so I’m getting tired, but I’m having a good time,” he said with a chuckle.

Marchand also took time to chat with Jordan's family, stopping by to share some smiles with Debbie between games.

“Everyone’s trying to celebrate his life, not mourn the sad events," he said. "(We're) having fun."

The 2014 Jordan Boyd Celebrity Hockey Challenge raised more than $102,000. Visit for more information.

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