Tom Cavanagh, one of nine children of a notable lawyer and US Hockey Hall of Famer, was a high school hockey star out of Warwick, Rhode Island. Just like his dad Joe, Tom went on to star at Harvard, both on the ice and in the classroom. Apparently he even lived in the same Ivy League dorm as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Unlike Dad, Tom had the opportunity to pursue his NHL dream. After graduation Tom signed with the San Jose Sharks, who had drafted him in the late rounds of the 2001 draft.
Tom reported to the Sharks farm teams, playing parts of six seasons in minor league cities like Cleveland, Worcester, Manchester and Springfield. But he also achieved his dream and played a total of 18 games with the Sharks. But a serious shoulder injury threatened his career by 2010.
Sadly, not all was well in Cavanagh's life. He suffered from serious mental health issues, depression and schizophrenia. On January 26th, 2011, at the age of 28, his secret demons won out as he took his own life.
The news shocked even those who were close to him, as he was said to be a very private person.
“It was impossible not to like him. He was a happy-go-lucky guy,” said teammate Jason Demers. “He always came in happy. He never brought a bad mood to the rink. That’s for sure something that he’ll be remember for and that’s what I remember most about him.”
"Sometimes with hockey players, we don't have a lot of other interests," said defenseman Mike Moore. "But you liked hanging out with him because he had a way of starting conversations among the team on anything like current events, politics or history."
“He probably was the most low-maintenance player I have ever been around,” Harvard coach Ted Donato. “You couldn’t get him to miss a practice.... He was wonderful. He probably spoiled me for the rest of my coaching life. He was the guy we compared all the other players to. He played hard. He played through everybody, and he was a perfect gentleman off the ice.”
His father released a statement at the time:
“We hope that his friends and supporters will pray for him and for us during these difficult days. We already have felt the love of so many people of our community. Our family will celebrate and always remember his beautiful but short life.”
“As tragic as this is, it’s a relief that he’s out of his torment,” he added. “He’s not suffering anymore.”
The Tom Cavanagh Memorial Fund has been set up in his honour.