Home Regions New England

Boston Bruins, Hockey Community Bolster A.J.’s Army

AJ Quetta
A.J. Quetta – Courtesy Bishop Feehan Athletics

There are staunch shows of support, and then there’s the battle cry that was recently sounded upon learning that a North Providence hockey player had suffered a horrific on-ice injury.

When we say support, we aren’t talking about the local community and leaving it at that. You know a chord has been struck when recognizable names attach themselves to a cause that continues to dominate the conversation roughly a week later.

An emergency plan was quickly enacted upon learning last Tuesday that Bishop Feehan senior A.J. Quetta had crashed headfirst into the boards during the third period of a Massachusetts high school hockey contest.

The leader in the “A.J.’s Army” clubhouse has to be the Boston Bruins, but the efforts of Patriots owner Robert Kraft and WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” can’t be overlooked.

Even past and present Patriots players (Patrick Chung, Stephen Gostkowski) reached into their pockets, while Julian Edelman spread the word through his personal Instagram account.

We’re talking about sports-related connections and outlets that – thanks to their scope and reach – as of noontime Monday – have helped raise an incredible $717,583 through a GoFundMe web page that initially set the goal at $10,000.

“It’s been overwhelming,” said Christian Schatz, Bishop Feehan athletic director. “Not only has it helped A.J. and his family, but also the school and the boys on the hockey team. Everyone is still helping each other through this, but something like this definitely helps.”

Star power may grab the headlines, yet the outreach from the Rhode Island community can’t be denied.

As of Monday, donations were made by the Central Rhode Island Knights youth hockey program, the Providence Hockey Club ‘09 Elite hockey team, and the Warwick Junior Blues ’09 Peewee team, as well as the R.I. Hockey Officials Association.

Frank Laliberte, athletic director at Pawtucket’s Tolman High School, sent in a contribution on behalf of his two daughters who attended and graduated from Bishop Feehan.

Matt Campanelli, general manager of Woonsocket’s Adelard Arena, placed water jugs with a “please donate” sign during each of the four high school hockey games that took place this past weekend.

As he watched the Feehan hockey team skate against Bishop Fenwick on Sunday afternoon inside Attleboro’s New England Sports Village, Schatz noted, “the support, both emotionally and financially, is needed and continues to be there. It’s very encouraging.”

Fittingly, it was a Rhode Island native who helped facilitate the outpouring of support that’s been shown by the area’s NHL club. Growing up in Cranston and currently living in Cumberland, Joe McDonald is a veteran sportswriter who is no stranger when it comes to covering the Bruins. He also has a teenage son who happens to attend Feehan.

Last Thursday, McDonald’s efforts as the connection between Bishop Feehan and the B’s resulted in wave upon wave of attention to what had happened to Quetta, who at that point wasn’t even 24 hours removed from undergoing surgery for a spinal cord injury at Massachusetts General Hospital.

McDonald was on his way to the TD Garden to cover that night’s game between Boston and Pittsburgh. Accompanying him on the ride was Quetta’s No. 10 Feehan jersey.

The jersey was hung behind the Bruins’ bench and referenced throughout that night’s NESN telecast. When McDonald went to retrieve the Feehan jersey, it had been signed by the entire Bruins team.

Additionally, Boston made a custom jersey with the trademark “spoked B” on the front with the back featuring the nameplate “Quetta” above his number. That jersey had also been autographed.

The puck didn’t stop there.

The Bruins have pledged “a minimum donation of $100,000” and are holding a game-used stick auction to raise additional funds on Quetta’s behalf.

They also shipped player-featured cardboard cutouts to the Feehan campus that were delivered in time to be displayed inside the N.E. Sports Village for Friday’s game against Austin Prep – the Shamrocks’ first contest since Quetta’s injury.

A.J. Quetta
A.J. Quetta Cardboard Cutout – Photo: Brendan McGair

In many ways, the Bruins helped set the tone for others – many of whom have never crossed paths with Quetta – to come forward and lend a helping hand. Four days after it was created, the GoFundMe page was closing in on 11,000 donors.

“Things ramped up quickly, but the Bruins were a big part of that,” said Feehan President Tim Sullivan. “The Quetta family has said to me that this helped them get through the week. They’ve followed it all and definitely appreciate it.”

“I think we all believe that the hockey community is among the most tightly-knit athletic communities out there. Kids grow up going to a lot of 4 a.m. practices and it binds them close together,” said Feehan Principal Sean Kane. “We’ve seen the power of that come through over the last week.”

“It’s nice to know that so many people are fighting for A.J.,” said Schatz.