HELENA, MT – During this year’s Lewis & Clark Cup finals featuring the Helena Bighorns and Yellowstone Quake, I (Bighorn President, Mike Butters) was invited to the home of Quake principle partner, Jim Williams to share in some breakfast burritos and good conversation.
It was at that time that I met Jim’s daughter, Jessica. Jessica is a junior at Cody, High School. When we spoke about her education plans, she mentioned her love of English and composition. She is a regular at most Quake games and has a passion for writing.
The morning went on and we enjoyed light conversation about things ranging from AWHL hockey to the NHL to history. It was all over the map. When I returned from breakfast to prepare for the game that evening, I had an idea. That idea was to ask Jessica if she would be interested in writing a story for the league website. When I contacted her, she agreed to write a story but said she didn’t know what to write about. I simply told her that she could write about any subject that had an AWHL theme to it. That was it. I gave her a deadline of Thursday evening.
It is Wednesday evening and I just received an email from Miss Williams with her story. It was such a strong story, I felt it should be shared with you. That said…
By: Jessica Williams
In the early hours of March 15, 2013, Wyatt Winfield, a Helena Bighorns hockey player was killed in a tragic car accident, leaving many family members, teammates, and friends heartbroken. When I received the text from my father saying a Helena player had died, my heart sank. I did not know this young man, I had never spoken to him and I knew absolutely nothing about him. Yet on some level, I mourned for the family, I mourned for his teammates, and for every person in Helena who had the pleasure of knowing Wyatt. When I read his obituary, I felt like I had known him for years, even though I hadn’t.
Most families grow up watching their favorite football or baseball team; I grew up watching hockey. Even though I knew virtually nothing about the sport, I grew to love it with a passion that I can’t explain. At first I thought it was all about choosing a favorite team, and arguing with other rival fans about which team is better, that was until the year my family housed a Quake player, and I slowly started to see what it was all about. I didn’t connect that these players came from all across the country, leaving behind their family and friends for something they love. Knowing nobody when they venture out to “the middle of no where” but they do it for love of the game. Yet when they meet their teammates, a bond is formed. Regardless of background, a brotherhood is forged among the players.
On Friday, March 22, 2013 the Helena Bighorns made the lengthy road trip to Cody, Wyoming to face the Quake hockey team in their first playoff game against each other. When I sat down in my usual section, I noticed the “Jersey”. The Jersey said, WINFIELD #15, and was hung on the visitor’s sign above the Bighorns bench. The feelings that struck me were overwhelming. I noticed how hard Helena was playing, even though the Quake had also been playing a great game that night, I couldn’t believe how hard Helena was fighting for this win. Then, something dawned on me. The Bighorns weren’t playing for a simple win, and they weren’t playing for the entertainment of the crowd, they were playing for their brother, Wyatt. The first and second periods blew by, the scoreboard still reading 0-0 and then in the third period, Helena scored, and soon the game was over, the Bighorns defeating the Quake 1-0. At the end, the winning team gathered around their goal and started celebrating, but I was too far away to make out what they were saying. I was told later that they were paying tribute to Wyatt.
The Jersey serves to remind all of us that life is not about wins, losses, scoreboards or rivalries. The Jersey should remind us that life is precious, and about the relationships we have with our friends, families, and teammates. Life is a gift, and should not be taken for granted.
Catch Friday’s Lewis & Clark Cup Final series between the Bighorns and Quake on AWHL TV. You can purchase a viewing pass by logging on to: www.theawhl.com.