Community power play

Published 6:57 pm Saturday, September 16, 2023

Austin shows its support for hockey player who suffered serious injuries in late July


The Austin hockey community was rallying for one of their own on Saturday night, and they had a lot of support from the community.

All of that support was put to great use at the WyattStrong Boys Hockey Fundraiser and alumni scrimmage in Riverside Arena.

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The event was held for Austin hockey player Wyatt Hamlin, who is still recovering at Mayo Clinic in Rochester from a car wreck that happened nearly two months ago.

Katie Carney was one of the hockey moms who helped set up the event and she was amazed to see how big the event grew in such a short time as the lobby of Riverside was packed with visitors and auction items to raise funds for Wyatt’s medical expenses.

“My heart is full. It has been a constant flow of people and we’ve had good feelings going through and through tonight,” Carney said. “We’ve had thousands of people step up. It’s been strangers through Facebook and people in the community. It has been amazing with the amount of support, love and care we’ve seen since the accident. We began within days after the accident. All those boys are our boys and they’ve all played together since kindergarten.”

While Hamlin is still struggling with his short term memory, he was able to watch the game on a livestream and he received plenty of encouragement during the event. His mother, Sheila White, was appreciative of the support and the path to recovery that her son is now beginning.

“Every time we tell Wyatt about the community support, he’s like ‘wow.’ I think it’s kind of overwhelming for him, because I don’t think he quite grasps the gravity of the injuries he received,” White said. “It’s really fun to see so many people come out and support Wyatt and our family. The first few weeks were very scary. He was unconscious and we had no idea what we were going to get. Ever since he’s started talking and he’s had rehab, everything is starting to come back.”

White has been overwhelmed by the community support, but she said it’s not a big surprise, considering the dedication of the hockey community.

“Both of his best friend’s moms are spitfires and it’s a lot of motivated women,” White said. “We had so many donations and I don’t even know where they came from. I really appreciate everybody’s support.”

As of early this week, Hamlin is going to have his external fixator removed and he will attempt to stand for the first time in eight weeks.

The scrimmage saw AHS grads going back as far as the Packer team that went to state in 2001.

“We had enough for two alumni teams and that’s phenomenal considering the amount of time we had to put this all together,” AHS head boys hockey coach Troy Schaeffer said. 

This summer has been a tough offseason for Schaeffer and the Packers as they’ve been keeping their eyes on Hamlin as much as possible.

“He would’ve been one of our starting defenseman this year, and that’s tough to replace,” Schaeffer said. “I actually added a Snapchat, which is unheard of for me, just to keep in contact with Wyatt. A lot of his hockey buddies have also visited him in Rochester, which is great.”

Besides the players on the ice, many of Hamlin’s former and current teammates were in Riverside to show their support.

“It’s really fun to see everyone again, but you would hope it would be for a different reason,” said Ethan Knox. “Wyatt’s a great guy and he was really fun to be on the team with.”

Former Packer Isaac Stromlund said it’s been a mix of emotions from hearing Hamlin had been injured to the following the process of his recovery.

“It was a big tragedy and it’s really put a damper on things throughout town, but it’s been great to have everyone come together,” Stromlund said.

Hamlin was injured in a crash on July 30 after the vehicle he was driving was struck by a vehicle driven by Jeffer Lorenzo, who has been arrested and faces six felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor charges including criminal vehicular operation-bodily harm-under influence of alcohol.