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Playing for number eight: Skyline hockey celebrates senior night and the life of a teammate By Ebba Gurney and Loey Jones-Perpich

On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Skyline men’s hockey team crowded into the locker room of the Arctic Coliseum in Chelsea. The team, clad in blue and white jerseys over layers of padding, gathered around the Skyline hockey logo emblazoned on the carpet, ready for a pep talk from their coach. Just before each of the team members left the room, they reached over and tapped the small blue sticker on the wall that had been there since the team’s first season without their beloved teammate Miles Roberts, who died by suicide as a freshman in the spring of 2017.

Outside of the locker room, the Coliseum quickly filled with hundreds of adults and students alike, most of whom wore white t-shirts displaying the new logo of the Miles Jeffrey Roberts Foundation (MJRF). Anyone without a shirt lined up behind a table, eager to buy one before they ran out. The crowds shuffled into the rink area, offering donations rather than an admissions fee. On a table at the entrance to the rink sat programs with photos of the eight senior players: it was senior night for the Skyline hockey team.

But it was clear to anyone at the game that day that it was more than just senior night; it was an opportunity to honor a friend, a brother, a son and a teammate, and to formally introduce MJRF to the public. The foundation, established by Miles’s parents, Kristen and Jeff Roberts, was started in August of 2019, and was established as a 501(c)(3) charity to raise money for and promote youth mental health and suicide prevention.

Senior Isaac Lippert hugs junior Jamie Newton as his name gets announced before Skyline Hockey's senior night game. Each senior went down the line, hugging their teammates. "Senior night is a special night for everyone, and every year it gets harder as you realize you’re one step closer to finishing such a large chapter of your life," Lippert said. "I’m extremely thankful that I got to experience it all with such a great group of boys that I get to call family.”

To many players on the team and people in the crowd, the foundation was a reminder of Miles, and there was no better way to celebrate him and his legacy than at senior night.

“It would have been his senior night as well,” said senior and co-captain Henry Hescheles. “Having so many people show up just showed me how much the community supports him and helps to remember Miles and the person he was. Being able to incorporate MJR night makes it so much more important. It really gives everyone a chance to honor his memory.”

As the clock reached 3 p.m., the boys stepped onto the ice, gliding to their spots in line before each senior was announced and congratulated on what they’ve achieved as a high schooler, as well as where they are headed in the coming years. For some that meant medical school, and for others it meant the armed forces. Once all eight seniors were introduced, the announcer read out one final name:

“Number eight, Miles Roberts!”

Applause thundered through the ice rink as Miles’s parents held their son’s framed hockey jersey. The team’s seniors approached them one by one and offered warm embraces.

“When we were going through the other seniors, I wasn't really that emotional until they announced his name,” said senior and co-captain Ryan Schmunk. “I know for me personally, it was tough.”

As the afternoon continued, the players shifted their focus to the mission at hand: winning their final game before playoffs.

“I think it was important to everyone to work hard and try as hard as they can to win the game,” said senior Jake McDevitt.

“It was senior night, so we were also just trying to have some fun,” Schmunk added.

The Skyline men’s hockey team emerged victorious over Bedford that afternoon with a score of 7-1, but even the joy of winning couldn’t keep the players and their peers in the audience from missing Miles and the spirit he brought to the team.

“I was thinking the whole time just how much different it would be if Miles was still here,” Hescheles said. “Once the puck drops, you have to kind of push all the emotion to the back of your head, [but] I was still thinking of Miles and just playing how he would’ve wanted me to. I know he would want to be there and be playing right next to us.”

Keren Maze, Andrew Lafferty, Katie Kowal, Jarrett Sung, Elena Axinn, Marlie Libs, Bryce Schaner and Anna Azim pose outside the rink after the senior night game, proudly sporting their Miles Jeffrey Roberts Foundation gear. Many of Miles's closest friends and teachers were in attendance. "It’s good to know that he isn’t forgotten, and that as a community we all want to continue celebrating his life and including him in things like the hockey team’s senior night," Anna Azim (right) said. "I think he would be really proud of us; it’s been challenging for everyone in our community to grieve such a huge loss, but this was a celebration. We honored Miles and let ourselves celebrate his life in a meaningful way."

The MJR foundation is currently selling shirts, sweatshirts and stickers via their website, and plans to put on events in the future that can raise money for research. To find out more or support MJRF, visit mjrfoundation.org.