By Phil Stacey
---- — Brian Pinho was 10 years old when former St. John’s Prep hockey star and 1st Lt. Derek Hines was killed by enemy forces while his unit was conducting security operations in Bavlough, Afghanistan.
While the life-long North Andover resident never met Hines, there’s a part of him that feels as if he knew Hines, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country on Sept. 1, 2005 at just 25 years old.
This Saturday afternoon at the Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, St. John’s will host B.C. High in the fifth annual Derek Hines Memorial Game.
“It’s very special to be a part of, unbelievably special,” said Pinho. “We’re not playing this game for ourselves, but for (Derek).”
St. John’s coach Kristian Hanson didn’t know Hines personally, but when he was hired as the team’s head coach six years ago he made it a priority to honor the Newburyport native.
“We wanted to have a day to remember Derek,” said Hanson, “and we’re happy we get to honor him this way. His family and friends come to the game and it’s special for everyone involved. This helps keep his story alive.”
Steven Hines, Derek’s father, spoke to the Prep players prior to last year’s game and told them about his son. As it turned out, the 17-year-old Derek Hines was a lot like many of the Eagles wearing hockey sweaters that day.
“His dad told us what a hard worker he was, and how that helped him do well at both St. John’s and West Point,” said Pinho, a Providence College recruit. “He told us about Derek being very strong willed, which kind of relates to the kids on our team.”
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Hines played for the Black Knights for four years before joining the 173rd Airborne Division.
For the third straight season the Eagles will face off against B.C. High in “The Hines Game.” In 2009, Central Catholic played and became the only team to beat the Prep in The Hines Game.
“It’ll almost feel like a Super 8 game,” said Pinho. “It’s different than all the other regular season games, with a lot more energy in our (locker) room and when we get on the ice. Everything’s faster and much more up-tempo. We’re constantly reminding ourselves of how important this game is.”