Dylan Hedrick isn’t sure about the details of his last interaction with longtime friend and East Texas Baptist University hockey teammate Hunter Dorram. All he remembers is that it came on the ice — after the final buzzer to cap a Jan. 29 game against Texas Tech on George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.
“That’s what’s tearing me up inside,” Hedrick told The Journal. “I just don’t know the last thing I said to him.”
Less than 24 hours later, the 22-year-old Dorram was gone, the victim of a fatal accident on Interstate 20 near Waskom.
Dorram and Hedrick were two of three seniors on the Tigers’ Division III team. Just one weekend remained in their four-year college hockey careers.
“Hockey was his life,” Hedrick said. “He went through a lot growing up and it was a way to get away from it – an escape. He loved to play, loved the grittiness of the sport.”
On Friday, four days after the tragedy, Hedrick and his grieving Tigers teammates mustered the fortitude to take the ice for a weekend series against North Texas. Before the game, Hedrick and the other senior, Jason Moore, took the ice wearing Dorram’s No. 13 jerseys. The game started with the clock at 13 seconds and Hedrick took the faceoff as the Tigers played with just four skaters. Not only was there a figurative void in the hearts of those on the ice, the missing piece was visible, too.
“He was listed in the starting lineup,” ETBU head coach Alain Savage said. “It was his last buzzer. That was a great way to let it go.”
Hedrick and Dorram were a “package deal” when Savage recruited the duo out of the Dallas Metroplex. Their near-decade playing together began during junior high in Mansfield, Texas. It was only natural they’d take the next step side by side.
At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Dorram was imposing as a defenseman. However, the classroom is where the Gypsum, Colorado, native excelled. He was a 4.0 student who had just two games left in his hockey career, but was set to be armed with a business administration degree.
The possibilities moving forward were endless and hope abundant.
“Hunter was really quiet, didn’t say much, but when he spoke people listened,” Savage said. “On the ice, it was more of the same. He led by example. Once you got in his circle, you weren’t getting out. He was going to keep you as a friend forever.”
How to cope with the events of the past week aren’t covered in any coach’s manual or taught at a player’s camp. The Tigers weathered the first seven days as a family.
“There were a few guys who didn’t want to get on the ice,” Savage said. “The guys are really close to each other. We rely on each other. I was really down Saturday (for Senior Day), but the boys picked me up. It’s a big family. That’s our culture.”
The time inside The George has proven to be the easiest part of the grieving process.
“You get out there and you forget everything — it will take the bad away, at least for a little bit, anyway,” Savage said. “I’ve never been through something like that. This is as close as I can get to losing my own child.”
The tenacious Dorram created a blueprint for all student-athletes, one Hedrick and Savage hope prevails in the hockey program for a long time.
“Matching his work ethic, and the perspective Hunter had to combine hockey and school – those are things that will benefit future Tigers,” Hedrick said. “He loved the toughness of hockey, and he brought toughness to the team. He loved scoring those dirty goals.”
As if Friday wasn’t challenging enough, Saturday’s Senior Day was lathered in emotion. Since Hedrick didn’t get to bid his “best friend” a proper adieu, or doesn’t remember it, he did the only thing he knew worthy.
“Friday was very hard, the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life,” Hedrick said, “but Saturday, I just can’t explain it. I had a feeling.”
In his final college hockey game, Hedrick scored the Tigers’ first goal and looked to the sky.
“It was very emotional. It was for him,” Hedrick said.
THAT is something he’ll never forget.
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