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The TK Way: Local Hero’s Legacy Inspires Mount St. Charles at Nationals

By Seamus Kelley, 04/02/23, 4:45PM MDT


Youth Tier I 15O nationals player Jack Kennedy gets opportunity to honor fallen family member, Maj. Thomas “TK” Kennedy, at Ice Vault Arena

When the Kennedy family found out that the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 15O National Championship was being held at the Ice Vault Arena in Wayne, New Jersey, they were instantly intrigued. Not only was this an opportunity for John and Amy Kennedy’s 15-year-old son Jack, who was beginning his second season at Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I., but it also represented a homecoming for John.

John and his brothers George, and Thomas, or “TK” as everyone called him, grew up in nearby New City, New York, about 30 minutes outside of Wayne. All three brothers attended and played hockey at Don Bosco Preparatory High School, whose home rink is the Ice Vault Arena. Tom was a standout at Don Bosco, and his leadership, teamwork, and work ethic drew the attention of Brian Riley, then-assistant, and current head coach of the hockey team at West Point. Riley recruited him to play for Army, where Kennedy played from 1997-2000. 

Following his graduation from West Point, TK began a successful military career, moving up the ranks while serving several deployments in Iraq. Kennedy also served as the hockey program’s officer representative. In 2012, Kennedy moved to Fort Carson, Colorado, and soon thereafter was deployed in Afghanistan. On August 8, 2012, everything changed for the Kennedy’s, as TK was killed in action along with three of his 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division teammates. 

Taking inspiration from TK, and the words of those whose lives he touched, the Kennedy family found a way to share his story and carry on his legacy, uniting West Point, Don Bosco, and Mount St. Charles, along with hockey teams across the country, with “The TK Way.”

“The TK Way is the way a lot of us try to live now,” John said. “Doing great things for other people, being a good leader, and taking care of those that can't take care of themselves around the world.”

John and Amy already knew TK was a hero. But to hear so many people go out of their way to tell them how he positively impacted their lives blew them away. The support they received from the Don Bosco and West Point communities reflected TK’s immense impact on those around him, both on and off the ice, in all walks of life. 

“That's when we really realized the impact that he had on those young soldiers at West Point and the stories were just amazing,” Amy said.

John added, “The stories you get, you know, the days after that and the weeks after that, it's just incredible.”

At West Point, the hockey locker room was renamed to the Maj. Thomas “TK” Kennedy Locker Room in 2018. Army Hockey also has an annual Maj. Tom Kennedy Award, which is “presented to a player who exemplifies the great characteristics of Major Kennedy: a hard worker who will do anything to help the team. The winner of this prestigious award goes to an unsung contributor who goes above and beyond to help his teammates and personifies what made ‘TK’ such a great person.”

“I think the most amazing thing about him is that he was a team first guy,” Riley said. “Those that knew him, knew that there wasn't anything that he wouldn't do for them, whether they were teammates or friends.”

At Don Bosco, TK’s number was retired, and a locker stall was dedicated to him. His jersey and name plate are positioned under a permanently lit spotlight, along with a 2019 State Championship ring from Don Bosco’s first-ever state title, which is engraved with his initials. All Don Bosco jerseys don a “TK” shoulder patch. The program also established an annual TK Cup game, where a scholarship was established in his name, as well as an annual TK Award, which honors a player who exemplifies the leadership, values and attributes that made him a great teammate. 

At Mount St. Charles, Jack honors his uncle with a TK helmet sticker, a sticker that can be found on the back of hockey helmets across the country now thanks to the efforts of the Kennedy family and those who share TK’s story. Mount St. Charles hosted a Military Night earlier this season, featuring camo jerseys with TK patches on the shoulders, where two of TK’s former West Point teammates did a ceremonial puck drop. Drew Fortescue, a member of the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and a Don Bosco alum, wore the TK sticker on the back of his helmet while he was at Bosco as well as with the Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers. 

“It’s just a terrific way for his legacy to live on through other hockey players and kids,” Amy said. “For our son to see the impact his uncle made and how, and why, for him to share in that, to honor that, and to carry it forward for himself and his teammates and friends, it means a lot.”

When Mount St. Charles arrived at the Ice Vault on Tuesday, Jack was given the locker stall next to the one dedicated to his uncle. The gesture was symbolic of a full-circle moment for the Kennedy Family. Riley spoke to the Mount St. Charles team before they took the ice for their first game of the tournament on Wednesday, with all 20 players standing at attention for the legendary coach in the locker room as he echoed the message of leadership and teamwork that TK championed. Jack scored in a 6-3 win for Mount St. Charles with his grandparents in attendance, decked out in TK gear from head-to-toe alongside John, Amy, and Riley.

“For the team to be able to learn about TK and what a great leader and teammate he was is really motivational for us,” Jack said. “TK has always been an influential role model in my life. Sitting next to his locker stall at Nationals meant a lot to me because my uncle was a warrior and I always try to live by the example he set.”


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