“Any time anybody was feeling down or out, he was the kind of person that put his arm around you and made you a better person,” Jason Pearl, Long Beach High School’s lacrosse coach, said of Gerrin Hagen. “He was such a wonderful young man. Everybody loved him. Well, actually, everyone loves him.”
Hagen, 18, was a lifelong hockey and lacrosse player in Long Beach. On Jan. 12 he was riding his skateboard along Cantiague Lane in Hicksville after finishing classes for the day at Nassau BOCES’ Joseph M. Barry Career & Technical Education Center, when he was struck by a Honda SUV driven by a 19-year-old. Hagen was rushed to a hospital, where he was initially listed in critical condition, but he died the next day.
At a candlelight vigil outside the Emile Francis Memorial Ice Arena Saturday night, there was an outpouring of support for Hagen’s family members and friends. Standing at a lectern in front of the crowd, Parks Commissioner Joe Brand held up two fingers, symbolizing the number Hagen wore on his LBHS hockey jersey.
The members of both teams were there to show their support. Hagen started on the varsity lacrosse team for a year, but was in the program for a few years.
“The guys on the team were really close to him,” Pearl said. “Coaches were really close to him. He just did what he had to do. He played hard. And he was a great human being, and he had a plan to do a lot of things in his life. Unfortunately, it was cut short.”
Outside the arena on a chilly night, there was music and there were tears, as teammates, friends and family members stood shoulder to shoulder on a crowded sidewalk, saying prayers and remembering Hagen.
Brand knew Hagen and his family for years, having coached him in hockey both as a youth player and in high school. Hagen also worked at the arena, and as a lifeguard on the beach during the summer.
When the service outside the arena came to an end, many of those who knew Hagen placed candles in front of a poster of him, and a pair of hockey sticks were displayed in front of a banner featuring a photo of Hagen in his LBHS hockey uniform.
Hagen has family members in the New York City Fire Department. His father and uncle are both lieutenants. The FDNY Hockey Team, a nonprofit organization that plays around Long Island, released a statement on Facebook Saturday in support of the family. The team also changed its profile photo to his jersey number, 2.
“Thoughts and prayer to the Hagen Family for the tragic loss of their son Gerrin,” the statement read. “Gerrin was a big part of the hockey community on Long Island, especially Long Beach.”
Hagen also played in the New York Islanders High School Hockey League. The league changed its Facebook profile picture as well, to one of Hagen.
On Sunday, the Rangers observed a moment of silence in honor of Hagen before their game against the Montreal Canadians.
“I offer my sincere condolences and sympathies to the Hagen family and to all of Gerrin’s friends,” Long Beach Schools Superintendent Jennifer Gallagher wrote in a letter to district parents. “As many in our community know, Gerrin was a wonderful student, a talented athlete and a friend to so many. His loss is a tremendous one for our school community.”
The school district activated its crisis response plan and had counselors on hand last Friday afternoon to talk with students, and will remain through the coming weeks as needed, Gallagher said.
“If you think your child would benefit from talking to someone about this loss — or just being together with friends — please feel free to come” and talk to counselors, Gallagher said. “Of course, if you believe your child needs immediate assistance or is in severe crisis at any point, the Long Island Crisis Center is a good resource.”
The Crisis Center hotline is (516) 679-1111.
Hagen’s wake was held on Monday at Christopher T. Jordan Funeral Home in Island Park. His funeral mass was held Wednesday morning at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Long Beach, where his hockey teammates tapped their sticks on the ground as his casket was carried in.
Additional reporting by Michael Hinman.