HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - On the ice, hockey players are some of the toughest guys you'll ever see. But we found one whose toughness is pretty impressive when he's not suited up.
Jacob Brown put his first pair of hockey skates on when he was four. He started playing the next year. “It’s exciting because not a lot of people can skate,” the 11-year-old said. “And I’m excited that I have this talent.”
Huntsville Havoc Coach Glen Detulleo saw Jacob’s talent. “Right away, I knew he was the right guy.” Detulleo said. He was looking for someone to lead the Havoc Hockey team for the 2016-2017 season. “We were excited last year when we got to name him Captain and he did a tremendous job for us,” the coach said. Jacob remembers telling me “It was pretty awesome.”
The guys on the team loved having Jacob around. “It was a no-brainer that we were going to bring Jacob back,” Detulleo said. And the players love their Captain! “He comes out and skates with us. He’s at practices and games,” Stuart Stefan said. “I think we’ve all become friends with him.” So much so, a lot of the players stayed in touch with him during the off-season by texting or calling.
While Jacob isn’t in the lineup with the puck drops and he doesn’t take those hard hits during the game, he may just be the toughest guy on the team. “With the fight he’s going through, you cannot not be a tough person and do that,” Coach Detulleo said.
Jacob is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. “He’s in a fight for his life,” Stuart said. Jacob was diagnosed in April of last year. He spent three months at Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “You can see other kids going through treatments and you can make friends with them,” Jacob said.
And he’s not finished telling me, “I’m a tough kid who’s going through some treatment right now.” Jacob gets chemo weekly at the Saint Jude Clinic at Huntsville Hospital. “But I’m able to do lots of stuff that normal people do,” he said with a smile. He still has a year of treatment to go.
“I know there were a few times he had some rough days last year and had to go to the hospital,” Stuart recalls. “And he would show up that night and still wanted to be at the game even though he could have taken the night off and stayed home and rested.”
Jacob’s goal is to beat cancer and get the players ready to play for the 28 home games this season. “Every time when he comes in and reads the starting lineup definitely gets the guys going before every game,” Stuart said. Jacob knows how to lead his men into battle telling me, “They need to be fired up so they can have energy and feel like they want to beat the other team.” That’s just what captains do.
Toughness counts, on the ice and in the game of life. Detulleo smiled and said, “If there’s a one on one battle, man, I’m taking Jacob every time.”
Jacob will be there to lead the boys into battle for the first Havoc home game of the season, Friday November 3rd. The puck drops at 7 p.m. And he'll be sporting his bright red Mohawk haircut too. When he found out his chemo treatments weren't going to cause him to lose his hair, he wanted to do something different. Jacob and his dad got matching haircuts at the Ronald McDonald House. It was free! Who's going to pass up an opportunity like that? And the red? That's for the Huntsville Havoc. You wear it well Jacob.