By Patrick Coleman
It's 5 a.m.at Foxboro Sports Center rinks. Normally, the King Philip High School Girls Hockey team would be hitting the ice in their practice jerseys, but today, the players are dressed for the camera. The coach has setup a special photo shoot to send support to Denna Laing, the professional hockey player who suffered a severe spinal cord injury while playing in the Outdoor Women's Classic at Gillette Stadium.
The KP players skate to center ice, take a knee and form an arc. Their away jerseys have been placed on the ice to make a giant number 14, the number Laing wore during her college career at Princeton. Also on the ice is a collection of pucks setup to look like a 24, her number with the Boston Pride, the professional team she was playing for during the accident.
The inspiration to do a tribute came to KP head coach Jack Unger after seeing college teams do similar pictures for the injured hockey player and a video he saw of Laing smiling from her hospital bed. "After seeing her smile and the message she sent out Monday, I just felt compelled to have a picture taken and show support to her and her family," he said.
Laing's smile is familiar to Unger (pictured). His daughter Giselle Unger, a KP alum, played for Assabet Valley Girls Ice Hockey, the same program in which Laing played while growing up.The girls were never teammates but they spent many practices together. "Denna's dad ran Friday night skills which multiple teams would take part in so through the years at times they would be on the ice for skills sessions," Unger said. "As you can imagine spending that much time at the Valley Sports rink in West Concord, MA you see the same faces a great deal and come across many great people. The Laing family was just that, great folks."
While the KP girls and coaches hope their tribute to Laing will give her support as she faces the challenges of her injury, Unger noted the fallen hockey player is motivating them as well. Over the past few days, he and his team have seen some of the thoughts Laing has shared on the accident explaining that people shouldn't feel sorry for her and that she was doing something she loves. And again, there was Monday's video of Laing where she says, "I'm back." Unger thinks her messages are inspirational and he added that if there is something his team can do to support her, they will. "It's an unfortunate event and our best wishes are with Denna and her family," he says.
A web site has been setup to send donations to help Laing during her recovery (www.dennalaing.org). She and her family are also active on Facebook and Twitter sharing updates about her condition and progress.
(KP Team Photo by Greg Klim/Klim Studio)