Hockey team becomes hockey family

Column by Patrick Sullivan. E-mail [email protected].

Life can be lost so quickly.

This cliche became all too real yesterday afternoon when I lost a friend and former teammate in Taylor Vit.

Taylor and I transferred to UK our sophomore year and played hockey together that year. We had different experiences with the team — I was a fringe defenseman; he was a bona fide star.

Despite his star status, Taylor was easy to connect with. He embraced the team concept and helped build morale in the locker room. Taylor was a very grounded superstar, despite being a go-to player for virtually every scenario on the ice.

That’s why people will miss him.

Sure, Taylor possessed elite hockey skills — he played Division III hockey in upstate New York before coming to UK — but he was only a hockey star on the weekends here. What he did off the ice will solidify his place in UK Hockey’s history.

My fondest memory of Taylor actually came on a day that I’d like to forget.

In fall of my junior year, I was the only returning player cut from the hockey team.

After that fateful tryout, I was forced to wait in the parking lot while my friends who made the team attended a meeting to plan the season. When the meeting adjourned, Taylor was the first player to console me. We were not the best of friends, but him telling me to keep my head up was a testament to his character and leadership.

It’s actions like this that make the ripple effect of Taylor’s death so easy to understand.

The hockey team transformed one of its signs into a memorial for Taylor. Players, fans and alumni offered condolences via Facebook by turning their profile pictures into a blue and white 14, Taylor’s hockey number. To witness a sea of these blue and white 14s in my news feed was simply chilling.

What’s even more chilling is what’s coming next. I am certain the hockey team will remember its fallen star in a very classy and sentimental manner.

I’ve always been a firm believer in the unity of hockey teams. No stronger bond exists in sports. The team has proved this already by transforming from the UK Hockey team into the UK Hockey family. The outpouring of support from current players and alumni has been remarkable and makes me proud to call myself a hockey player, and a former UK Hockey player at that.

While the score sheet will no longer be littered with Taylor’s goals and assists, he will have an even bigger presence in the hockey and UK community. Most fans will remember him for sniping goaltenders or maneuvering around defensemen with ease, but the UK Hockey family will remember Taylor for more than the superstar he was.

Club hockey players only get five years of eligibility, but Taylor will be an active member of the team forever and I don’t think a single fan, player or official, will mind.