We started our trip early Thursday morning/night at 2:45am. We all met at Ingalls rink where we loaded a chartered bus to New Jersey to catch our first flight. The flight went from New Jersey to Minnesota and we caught another one from Minnesota to Regina, Saskatchewan Canada. After going through customs at the airport the coaches picked up the rental cars and we drove about an hour to Moose Jaw, the town where our hotel was. From there we had a couple hours of much needed nap time and then headed towards Wilcox, Mandi’s hometown. The Schwartz family invited our
team for dinner in their beautiful home. It was nice to spend some time with them. We brought them a few of Mandi’s Yale shirts from this past season, a video accenting Mandi’s hockey highlights, and a framed jersey of Mandi’s from Yale.
The very next day was Mandi’s funeral. We arrived fairly early in the afternoon and were greeted by several news reporters. There were about 1,150 people in attendance including the GM of the St. Louis Blues NHL Organization. All 800 chairs in the gymnasium of the Notre Dame School were occupied. Another 350 people watched the service on a large television screen that was set up in a nearby church. Mandi’s story has inspired so many throughout the hockey community. It wasn’t a surprise to see over 1,000 people in attendance in Mandi’s small town of Wilcox-population 300.
For more than two hours, Mandi’s compassion, courage and selfless nature were remembered. Two brilliant speeches were given by former coaches, Harry Rosenholz and Hilary Witt. At the end of Harry’s speech he said “Mandi is our angel.” Yale Freshmen and also a Wilcox resident, Patricia McGauley, sang with such emotion for us all. It was amazing and we are so proud of her. Also during the ceremony a few videos of Mandi were displayed. Mandi even made one of her own videos during her last few months.
The last part of the ceremony was at the Notre Dame ice arena for Mandi’s final skate. Our team lined up along the blue line with our jerseys and skates on. The Notre Dame girls team lined up along the other end. On the red-line, along the far boards, members of Mandi’s immediate family parents Rick and Carol, along with brothers Jaden and Rylan were joined by Kaylem, Mandi’s fiancé, former Notre Dame president Terry O’Malley and our captain, Sam MacLean.
Sam was the first one to take Mandi for a skate between the bluelines, next was Jaden Mandi’s youngest brother. Rylan, Mandi’s oldest brother did the same thing, and O’Malley, who is considered royalty at Notre Dame, followed up.
Then it was Kaylem’s turn. He did a full lap of the ice … and another … and yet another … before being joined by Jaden, Rylan and O’Malley and our team. They all skated slowly toward Carol and Rick Schwartz, after which the group made the slow walk to centre ice.
The urn was gently placed on the faceoff circle. The Notre Dame Prayer and Victory March was played -slowly at first, before the tempo increased.
Cheer, cheer, for Old Notre Dame, Wake up the echoes cheering her name …
After the ceremony there was a reception held for family and friends. It was a very emotional day as we all will miss Mandi so much.
The next day was the long trip back to New Haven. We made it safely, and are so grateful for being able to be there for Mandi. We cannot thank our University enough for allowing our whole hockey team to be a part of these special couple days. Yale is truly an incredible University to take care of us like that.
Mandi has left a rich legacy by being the central figure in a movement that will ultimately save and enrich countless lives. Mandi Schwartz’s name and story has become well-known as a result of her determined battle with cancer. A website (becomemandishero.org) was established to encourage people to donate bone marrow or umbilical-cord blood, which can be lifesavers for people awaiting treatment.
Our University marrow donor registry drive headed by our team, the football team, and the field hockey team, which is named in Mandi’s honour, will be held April 21. Over the past two years, Yale has added 1,600 people to the donor registry. From that reservoir, an astounding five matches have been found. We hope that many more people will turn out for this life-saving cause.