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Hockey parent collapses from heart attack, community supports family in playoff game

Woodbury Bantam B1 Royal hockey players honored Jim Edgell by placing his initials on their helmets at Tuesday's game. (Submitted photo)

While Woodbury Bantam B1 Royal hockey player Jack Edgell was getting ready for a regional playoff game in Worthington Sunday, his father, Jim Edgell, met him up in the locker room to hand him his skates and wish him good luck.

But Jack didn't know it would be the last time he'd hear those words of encouragement that he's used to hearing from his dad, a big hockey fan and supporter of the Woodbury hockey community.

Jim Edgell, 47, walked out of the locker room to follow his son to the rink when he suddenly collapsed from a heart attack and was later pronounced dead.

The unfortunate incident brought together members of Minnesota's youth hockey community - from the metro to rural areas - in support of the Edgell family.

The Woodbury youth hockey team played the Sunday game not knowing what had happened. They were also scheduled to play Eagan that same evening after winning the first game against Marshall. The second game was postponed to Tuesday night in respect to the Edgell family, their friends and other mourners.

Tuesday's game drew hundreds of spectators; attendees said it was the largest crowd to ever attend a Woodbury youth hockey game. It was almost like a memorial service for Jim Edgell, a well-known member of the Woodbury community.

The game, played against Eagan at Cottage Grove Ice Arena, drew almost 400 people.

"It was like a high school game almost, there were that many people there," said Kevin McDonald, a parent of one of the players who also knew Jim Edgell.

In the midst of grieving his father's death, Jack wanted to honor his dad. Just a few days after his passing he decided to play in the Tuesday night game.

"Jim would've wanted Jack to play that game," McDonald said. "It was probably a good release for Jack."

His teammates' gesture was a little different, but visible throughout the game.

"One of the cool things that the boys came up with in order to honor Jim is they all put his initials on their helmets for the game," team manager Beth Kwiatkowski said.

Word had spread quickly through social media, email and text messaging that Jim Edgell had died at his favorite place -- an ice arena -- and that the game against Eagan was still on but rescheduled.

The atmosphere was sad, somber and emotional Tuesday night, McDonald said. The team was down 3-0 up until the third period when they started scoring.

"Once we got the first goal early in the third period, it seems like the crowd was waiting for something positive to happen," McDonald said.

The Woodbury team quickly went on a scoring rampage. Players ended up tying the game 3-3, which sent them into overtime.

"Once the game got tied up, the roof almost came off the place," McDonald added.

Although Woodbury won 4-3 in overtime and will advance to the state tournament in Marshall, Minn., next week, coach Scott Berzinski said it hasn't been so much about hockey for the past few days.

"Hockey really didn't matter, it was very sad and if we had to cancel we would've canceled the season, that would've been fine," he said.

"It was really a show of community support behind this hockey family," Kwiatkowski added.

The incident didn't only bring the hockey community together, it prompted the installation of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) at the Marshall arena.

Barb Finnegan, youth hockey parent and EMT, said after the Sunday game she contacted the Marshall Amateur Hockey Association and asked if she should bring her own AED to the state tournament next Friday.

Instead, she received a response saying the association was purchasing one prior to the tournament, she said.

Jim Edgell's celebration of life will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, March 11 with funeral service at 6 p.m. at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.