Boston Bruins, New England hockey community rally around A.J. Quetta

From the Boston Bruins to a rival high school, the hockey community has rallied to support injured 18-year-old high school player A.J. Quetta, whose headfirst crash into the boards might leave him paralyzed.

“It’s incredible. Close to 10,000 people taking the time to support A.J. I think the [fundraising] number’s now probably close to a million dollars,” said Tim Sullivan, president of Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where Quetta is a senior.

Quetta suffered a spinal cord injury in a Tuesday night game against Pope Francis in West Springfield, awkwardly falling into the boards on an attempted bodycheck. He was transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield that night.

Quetta has already undergone one spinal surgery since the accident. His sister, Elyse Quetta, wrote on the family’s fundraising page that her brother “might not be able to move his body again.”

News of the injury quickly spread through the New England hockey community, which rallied to Quetta’s support. The family’s GoFundMe had a target of $10,000; as of Friday afternoon, it was closing in on $600,000 in donations.

The Bruins have pledged “a minimum donation of $100,000” and are holding a game-used stick auction to raise more funds — including those used by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, who played in Boston this week. The Bruins honored Quetta by hanging his jersey behind their bench against Pittsburgh on Thursday night, putting his nameplate in their locker room and symbolically awarding him the puck as player of the game.

“Despite these tragic circumstances, it makes my family and the Boston Bruins organization very proud to see such an outpouring of support from the New England hockey community,” said Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs.

Sullivan said that beyond the money raised by the Bruins and the GoFundMe, there’s over $130,000 coming from WEEI’s The Greg Hill Foundation, with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft pledging to match up to $25,000 of the money raised. There’s another private six-figure donation from within the school.

Pope Francis Prep, the team that played Bishop Feehan on Tuesday, is raising money by selling shamrock stickers with Quetta’s No. 10 on them.

Sullivan said the players and team parents have assembled as a group called “A.J.’s Army,” which already has shirts printed in support of Quetta, and have a number of other fundraising options they’re looking to put into action.

As for the school, Sullivan said much of its support for Quetta and his family this week came in the form of prayer.

“I don’t know, it might sound cliché, but it’s been a big part of this. And Mrs. [Nicole] Quetta, I talked to her yesterday, and she talked about that first. It’s what we do here every day, but it’s been a little bit different this week,” he said.

Bishop Feehan had a game on Wednesday that was postponed, but the team is scheduled to play on Friday night.

“The boys are crushed for their friend. They had games coming up and practices. We were like, ‘You tell us. There’s no wrong answer here. Whatever feels right.’ And they decided to skate. Practice went well, and they’re playing [tonight],” Sullivan told ESPN. “We told them that it’s a hockey game. Go play hockey. It may not be fun tonight, but it’s also not a memorial service. Playing hockey is OK.”

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