Chris Brown was not one to sit for hours in front of a television on an NFL Sunday or schedule his day around a big-league baseball game.

“He was never a sports fan except for hockey,” said his wife, Amie.

He liked the pace of the game, the skill involved. So he watched the Chicago Blackhawks on TV with regularity. And when his youngest son, Mason, began to skate at 3 years old at the Pepsi Ice Center in Bloomington, Dad decided watching wasn’t enough.

“Once Mason started playing, it kind of inspired him to do it,” Amie said.

Before long, Chris Brown was playing in the annual Guns ’N Hoses game at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum to benefit Special Olympics Illinois.

As a full-time firefighter with the Bloomington Fire Department, he was on the ‘Hoses’ team opposing a squad of police officers.

It was fun, exhilarating.

The same could be said of a Brown family trip last weekend to the sixth annual Blackhawks Convention in Chicago. Amie Brown and sons, Mason, now 8, and Max, 12, were able to meet many of the Stanley Cup champions’ players and head coach Joel Quenneville.

Captain Jonathan Toews met with them personally and signed a Guns ’N Hoses jersey worn by Chris Brown. Quenneville, Toews and other players were photographed with the Browns. The family was escorted into a room to see the Stanley Cup, pose next to it.

Later, Amie Brown asked her sons, “What did you think?”

“All they could say was, ‘It was awesome! It was amazing!’” she said. “It turned out to be more than we could have imagined.”

Now comes the hard part. Chris Brown would have eaten this up. He would have been a kid in a 39-year-old body.

In short, Amie said, “He would have loved it.”

Her voice quivered. Heartache doesn’t take a day off. It is always in the shadows, ready to pounce without warning.

Here it was again.

Chris Brown, a Hudson resident volunteering with the Hudson Fire Department, was killed March 5 while responding to an accident on Interstate 39.

A coroner’s jury later ruled his death was “accidental but avoidable.” The driver of the truck that struck Brown faces charges of reckless homicide. Tragic is the only way to describe it.

Amie Brown and her sons are left to carry on, to move forward through the pain. Dad would want that.

That’s what last weekend provided, at least in part. The Browns were able to smile, live in the moment.

“It was something we got to experience together,” Amie said. “We still had a great time, even though their dad wasn’t there.”

Chris Brown lives through them now. Max, who will be a seventh grader at Kingsley Junior High, began playing hockey in the past year and “fell in love with it also,” his mother said. Both boys play in leagues at the Pepsi Ice Center.

The game has become a common bond, and in a couple of weeks will be foremost in the Browns’ minds again.

Blackhawks’ executive vice president Jay Blunk is bringing the Stanley Cup to downtown Danvers for Danvers Days. The Cup will be on display Aug. 18 for public viewing from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Browns have been invited to be a part of it all, and fans will have an opportunity to contribute to the Max and Mason Scholarship Fund on site and through CEFCU.

“The boys are really excited (to be invited),” Amie Brown said. “People have been so generous already. This is another way of them stepping up. It’s amazing. You never would have expected all of this.”

No one would be more surprised than Chris Brown. He was not a man who longed for recognition or sought a place on center stage.

“He didn’t want the focus on him,” Amie said. “He would have been, ‘Oh gosh, please no.’ But he deserves it. He was an amazing person.”

Her voice quivered. It is an ongoing battle.

Hockey helps.


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