One of Stephen MacAulay’s most poignant memories of his mother Jean can be traced back two years ago.
At the time she was part of a throng of supporters who cheered on her son when he arrived home in Cole Harbour with the Memorial Cup he won with the Saint John Sea Dogs.
The 20-year-old remembers his mother’s face beaming with pride.
“That stays with me,” said MacAulay. “It wasn’t because we won, she just knew how happy me and the guys were and that was enough for her.”
The former schoolteacher was also in the stands watching as Stephen and Co. captured the Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ont. She even celebrated on and off the ice with them.
On some level Jean (Poirier) MacAulay’s infectious warmth and generosity touched the lives of virtually all of Stephen’s teammates who knew her.
Last week his mother lost her lengthy battle with cancer. His former Saint John teammates, who he left earlier this season in a trade to the Halifax Mooseheads so to be closer to his ailing mother, showed up to her funeral last Friday.
Even Jonathan Huberdeau, with whom he won the Memorial Cup, took a leave from the NHL’s Florida Panthers to be there.
That support, he said, was just what he needed.
After a brief absence from the team, he was back in the Mooseheads lineup last Sunday where he picked up an assist in the Herd’s win over the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He knew he needed to be back on the ice.
“It’s therapeutic in some sense just to try to get back into my normal routine. My mother cared about our family so much and I know this is what she would want. She knows this is what I love to do.”
He also knows what he has to do as the Mooseheads prepare for their first round playoff opponent, his former Sea Dogs team starting on Friday.
“I didn’t need any more motivation for the playoffs but she definitely has given me a boost,” he said.
There’s no easy way for a young man, not even someone like MacAulay who is admired around the league for his maturity and poise, to come to terms with the loss of the most important person in his life.
In his second Memorial Cup run last season he promised Jean, who couldn’t be there, another trophy. His effort came up short.
“At the end of the game I felt OK but as soon as I got on the phone with her I sobbed like a baby. But I remember how comforting she was and how proud she was that we worked so hard.”
But in his pain he’s able to recognize the blessing he was given.
“She put everyone ahead of herself,” he said. “It’s a shame that sickness overcame her but she fought a good fight and lived a full life.”
‘She treated me like I was family’
For two weeks Trey Lewis felt like he was Jean MacAulay’s other son.
That’s the amount of time the Halifax Mooseheads co-captain spent with the MacAulays in his first year with the team as he prepared to move in with his permanent billet family.
“I just remember how upbeat, how chipper she was,” said Lewis. “She treated me like family.”
Jean didn’t forget Trey either. She always greeted him with a hug.
“It was just the little things that made her an incredible woman.
“It’s blown my mind how strong not only him but his family has been,” he added of his teammmate, Stephen MacAulay. “We just want to be there for him.”