This story reminds us all to hug our kids and call your mom or dad. It is about a 9-year-old boy, his love for his dad and the sport they loved together. News 2’s Ashley Yost tells this story that is also about a group of people in our community who helped lift him up when that bond ended far too soon.
Josh Vacey enters the rink at the Stingrays hockey stadium in North Charleston
“No fighting today” warns a staff member as he steps through the door.
“Got it,” replies Josh.
Josh Vacey first got in the rink at 5-years-old. His dad, Chet, was a season ticket holder at the stingrays. This father and son shared a love for the game. Josh has already played a lot of hockey, but never like this.
When asked what his friends will think, Josh responds, “I don’t even know if they’ll believe me. I never knew I’d actually get to play with the Stingrays.”
On Tuesday, that is what happened. Josh has tons of good memories in the Stingrays arena from going to games with his dad. Stingrays president Rob Concannon added one more special memory to the list. He describes the events of the day.
“He had to be here at 9 o’clock,” said Concannon. “The guys welcomed him with open arms. We had him in the locker room, we had a jersey made for him and then we had him in Coach Carbery’s office.”
Josh sat down across the desk from Head Coach Spencer Carbery.
“We’re going to sign you to a contract today.” Carbery asks, “does that sound like a good idea?”
“Yeah,” Josh said with a smile across his face.
“Sign here,” Coach Carbery pointed to the line at the bottom of the paper.
“In cursive” Josh asks
He signed and that was it! “You’re officially a Stingray for the day my man,” said Coach Carbery.
Josh threw up his hands and the two exchanged high fives.
Coach asked what position Josh wanted to play and he said defense so they matched him up at left-D with Bobby Shea.
Josh said he was not sure what to expect when he got to the stadium “I thought I would be in a big place, with big people, playing big things. I saw how fast they were just when they were zooming down.”
When asked why he picked hockey over other sports Josh’s smile faded. “My dad really picked it,” he said. “It really shows the good in me and how much that I like it and it shows the spirit of my dad in me.”
Josh followed in his dad’s passion for hockey, which made Tuesday even more precious. Josh lost his dad to cancer last week.
“Now I don’t have my dad.” Josh remembered, “We would always watch games here and that’s why I would pick hockey because it shows memories of me and my dad.”
The coaching staff at the Stingrays invited him to join practice for a day to pick up his spirits. “[We] thought it would be a good idea to get him in here,” said Concannon. “Get his mind off the events of last week and his dad passing away. You’ve seen him Ashley. He’s so excited to be here. He’s got a smile from ear to ear. He just looks like he’s having a great time so we hope we can help with the healing process and this is our way of doing so.”
Josh said he didn’t tell his friends because he knew they would be jealous, but what he wanted more than this was his dad back. During this day on the ice with the stingrays, he got a needed boost from his favorite players.
“He was able to skate around and practice with the guys and do a few drills,” Concannon pointed out.
Josh described some of the drills they got to do. “We did a husky drive where you saw me following some people and then shooting and then we did a shoot out. He scored multiple times on a professional goalie. When asked how that felt he lit up. “Really good,” Josh said.
“He’s a good player!” said Concannon. They think he will make the travel team this year.
Josh does not know for sure what his dad would say if he was here to watch him, but he can imagine.
“I don’t believe what you’re doing and I think you’re really crazy,” Josh guesses his dad would say.
The Stingrays are not the only ones stepping up. Some friends of the family plan to set up a Go Fund Me account to raise money to help cover the expensive cost for Josh to play travel hockey. As soon as that account is created, we will post it here.