MARLBORO, MA – Anytime I hear my phone ring, early in the morning, I always get nervous. It’s rare to get a phone call before 7:30 or 8:00 AM on my cell. On Friday morning when I saw it was my brother calling at 7:30 AM I immediately had an uneasy feeling.It’s out of character to get a phone call from him that early. I could tell immediately that something was wrong from the tone of his voice and that is how I found out that a great friend, Jason Pagni, had passed away earlier that morning.
We didn’t have any details of his passing, other than that he was involved in a car accident. Not that it matters how, I, like everyone else was in complete shock and stunned that he was gone.
Pags, as everyone knew him by, was known throughout the hockey world as one the great people associated with the game. He was born in Meriden, CT on January 14th, 1971. He graduated from Avon Old Farms in 1990 before then going on to play hockey at Merrimack College. He started working in the hockey world shortly after finishing at Merrimack and he never looked back. He was an owner of the CT. Yankees, Hamden Hockey House (H3) and MVP Campus Laundry. Hockey was his passion, and, more to the point, helping kids was what he loved. Whether it was taking teams to the prestigious Quebec Pee-Wee tournament or to the Brick tournament in Edmonton or anywhere in between he loved being around the kids, having fun and making sure they have an unforgettable experience.
My first thoughts, after the initial shock set in, was that he was leaving behind a wife and two beautiful young girls. I had never met his wife Kate, but I know anyone who is married to Pags has to be a saint! I had a chance to meet both his girls, Gabby and Maddy on several occasions and could tell how special their Daddy was to them. He would spend countless hours at their swim meets and talked of them often..always with pride. He brought Gabby to the Brick tournament one year and they were attached at the hip. She never left his side and I could tell how much she looked up to him. I hope my girls look at me the way she looked at Pags.
For those that never had the pleasure to know Pags, he was one of the greats. There’s not one person I know of that spent any amount of time with him that didn’t come to love his company. He was just one of those guys that made everyone around him smile, laugh and enjoy being in his presence. It’s not just those that knew him well who feel this way but really anyone who spent any amount of time with him. Whether it’s a weekend in Montreal, Toronto, the Hamden/Stamford area or up in Boston he had a magnetic personality and you were drawn to him. You would look forward to seeing him at the rink, at a restaurant or the hotel lobby bar…and you hoped he had time to retell some of his stories.
I think about the thousands, literally, of kids that he helped over his life. I don’t know how you quantify the number of people who he went out of his way to help. He was one of those guys, that at the drop of a hat he would do anything for you.
I sent a text to a mutual friend of ours on Friday morning letting them know of his passing. Our mutual friend, who had only known Pags for a handful of years, and only knew him in a limited capacity, gave me a call to express his condolences and share some of his experiences with Jason. They were friends but not tight, and as is the case with Pags, he mentioned how just a few weeks ago Pags called him because he knew his son was trying to get an internship on Wall Street this summer. It wasn’t our friend calling Pags, but rather Pags going out of his way to help someone who he was a friend to but not someone who he had known for a lifetime or had become close with. That’s what you get with Pags, to know him is to love him. Losing Pags is not just losing one of the great people in the hockey world but one of the great people in the world.
There are thousands of kids whose life was positively affected by him. My heart breaks for Kate, Gabby, Maddy, his family and friends but also for the thousands of kids who won’t have the opportunity to be coached and spend time with Jason.
There have been countless dinners, tournament weekends, golf trips and time in the car spent with Pags that go by in an instant because you just have so much fun when you’re around him. Peter and I were in Florida a few months ago on an emergency 48 hour golf trip, with Pags in tow, and had dinner the one night we were in town. There were 10 or 12 of us at dinner and, as always, Pags was holding court retelling stories. At dinner that night was Nelson Peltz and some of his son’s and friends-all who spent years with Pags and were involved in a lot of the stories being told that night. The dinner lasted four hours and could have lasted longer if the restaurant wasn’t closing for the night. If you were to put his stories on paper, you could make a screenplay and put it on the big screen and people would think the whole movie was made up. The trouble and situations that he found himself in and got himself out of border on the unbelievable. He packed more into his 43 years than most do in a lifetime…maybe ten lifetimes. He lived life to the hilt and was always on the lookout for his next adventure. If there was a good time to be had…expect to see Pags there with a crew of his boys having more fun than everyone else whether it was in the Bahamas, Vegas, Palm Beach, the track, a golf course, rink or at the Super Bowl (which he never missed).
I think about the inner circle and who would be the most affected by his passing. I feel that most people’s inner circle is a pretty tight, small group of family that you’re a little closer to than others and your closest friends. It’s called an inner circle for a reason and it’s usually a small group of people who care about you the most and you come into contact with and share life experiences with more than others. I then started to think about Pags’ inner circle and it is a crowded room. It speaks volumes about the type of person he was and the effect he would have on people and how much you wanted to be around him and enjoyed being with him. Without blinking an eye I can think of 8-10 people that might consider Pags their best friend. I don’t think many people can have that said about them. He was that loved.
The world will not be the same without you. Rest in Peace…we love you.
Peter Masters: “It is very hard to find a true friend you meet later in life, normally that is reserved for people you knew from childhood, or maybe a High School or college buddy but Jason and I met ten years ago became fast friends and I considered him one of my best friends. Not easy to do when you don’t have a long history but he was truly magical to be around, so much fun. No one told a better story and no one, and I mean no one, lived a more interesting life than he did. He is a person people will be talking about for a long time to come. I can’t tell you how hard the last few days have been. He was the best and this world is truly less without him in it. I will miss greatly.”
Wednesday, January 5
Peter H Torello and Sons Funeral Home
1022 Dixwell Ave, Hamden CT
Christian Funeral Mass
Thursday, February 6
Our Lady on Mt. Carmen Church
2819 Whitney Ave, Hamden CT
In lieu of flowers and gifts, the Pagni family is requesting that memorial contributions be made to the:
Gabriella & Madelyn Education Fund
℅ First Connecticut Credit Union
159 South Turnpike Rd.
Wallngford, CT 06492
Pags, Gabby, Maddy, and Kate
Pags at Trump International in West Palm Beach (November 2013)
(left to right) Pags, Nelson Peltz, Chris and Peter Masters (November 2013)