IN THE WAKE OF UNSPEAKABLE TRAGEDY, THE STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH HOCKEY TEAM BANDED TOGETHER AND EARNED A BERTH TO THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
ON A COLD March afternoon, 18-year-old Matthew Horowitz stood outside the Minnesota state capitol, reading notes from his cell phone and speaking to 18,000 protestors gathered on the mall grounds below. Pinned to his Marjory Stoneman Douglas ice hockey jacket was an orange ribbon honoring Jaime Guttenberg, sister of his teammate Jesse Guttenberg, while the green lettering on his baseball cap—EXTRA GUAC—paid tribute to friend Joaquin (Guac) Oliver. Both were among the victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at their Parkland, Fla., high school.
"Those 17 people will never walk this Earth again," Horowitz told the crowd. "I will never see my friends again. We now speak for those 17 angels, and we need to make a difference in this world."
Horowitz was at the Minnesota March for Our Lives, one of more than 760 nationwide rallies marshaled by Stoneman Douglas survivors, to help lead a two-mile demonstration walk across the Mississippi River. But he also came to the Twin Cities as a forward competing in the 2018 USA Hockey High School National Championships in nearby Plymouth. That evening, when a wraparound goal from forward Ronnie Froetschel Jr. clinched a 3--2 overtime thriller over Lake Central (Ind.) High, the Eagles swarmed the ice to celebrate their first and only win of the tournament. "It was nice after everything that day," says Horowitz, who scored both regulation goals. "We were able to let out our emotions."
As it was, he says, the team had to learn to cope together. Despite beginning the Tier I Florida state tournament with three straight losses—their first three games after the shooting—the Eagles rebounded with 3--1 and 7--4 victories to capture the title. Upon returning home from the tournament in Estero, each of the 17 players draped his medal around one of the 17 memorials outside Stoneman Douglas.
Throughout their run, support poured in from the hockey world. Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who grew up in Parkland and briefly attended MSD, and Senators goalie Craig Anderson, a longtime offseason resident, each donated suites when his team visited the BB&T Center in Sunrise. The Panthers, meanwhile, surprised the Eagles by bringing the Stanley Cup to a Stoneman Douglas practice, and then by lending their jet to whisk the team to nationals. Three months later four players—including Jesse Guttenberg and captain Matthew Hauptman—helped present the Calder Trophy at the NHL awards in Las Vegas.
Horowitz is a freshman at Florida State now. He hasn't joined the club hockey team yet, but perhaps next year he will. Some moments are tougher than others—when birthdays of his slain schoolmates pass or news of another mass shooting comes across his Twitter feed. And some memories from the Eagles' magical title run are already clouded by grief and shock. But still, his hope hasn't faded. "Soon kids our age are going to be running the country," Horowitz says. "Hopefully we're all learning our lessons now."