The Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn’s helmet with Arlene Forbes’s initials. The club honoured Arlene during a mothers’ trip last week. (Photo contributed)

Dallas Stars pay tribute to Nanaimo woman who died of cancer

NHL team wore Arlene Forbes’s initials on hockey helmets last week

Dallas Stars video coach Kelly Forbes remembers the reaction from his mother Arlene Elizabeth Forbes when he told her the team would be holding its first-ever mothers’ trip.

“She had a tear in her eye,” Forbes told the News Bulletin.

The Stars had previously held fathers’ trips, allowing dads of players and coaches to travel with them on a short road trip. However, they had never held a mothers’ trip before and it was something Arlene had advocated they do for years.

“Every time there was a mothers’ trip on TV she would take a picture and send it to me and say ‘make sure you let Jim Nill [Stars general manager] know,’” Forbes recalled. “She would always talk to Jim and it wasn’t like she was pushy. She would just always let the Stars know how much fun the dads were having, but how much the mothers of players and staff would appreciate a trip, too.”

After years of advocating, Stars ownership agreed and the club’s inaugural mothers’ trip took place last week, with more than a dozen moms travelling with the team to Nashville and Arizona. But Arlene wasn’t one of them.

She died of breast cancer on Jan. 23 at the age of 63.

“She was a really genuine and engaging woman,” said Randy Forbes, her husband of 43 years, whom she met in Nanaimo.

The Stars decided to honour Arlene during the trip by wearing her initials, AF, on the back of every player’s game helmet. White buttons that had “AEF” written above a pink ribbon were worn by coaches, staff and broadcasters during the trip. The Stars’ television broadcasters also paid tribute to Arlene during the game against Nashville on Feb. 7.

“It really was amazing and touching. I knew she was loved. I knew the players and staffed had loved her and missed her but to go to these lengths of outpouring and love really was amazing. I get emotional thinking about it,” Kelly Forbes said.

Kelly, who played AAA hockey in Campbell River and Nanaimo as well as collegiate hockey in the United States before joining the Stars organization in 2009, said his mom, a longtime Nanaimo real estate agent, was always there for him when he was growing up. He said Arlene believed it was important for the Stars to have a mothers’ trip.

“It was needed, not just because of my mom, but because of how much mothers do for hockey, how much they sacrifice and how much time and effort they put into their sons’ and daughters’ hockey life,” Forbes said.

With Kelly far away from home, Arlene would travel to Dallas a few times a year to be with him and the rest of the team.

And when the Stars came to Vancouver, Arlene was also there watching and cheering.

“I don’t think she ever missed a game in Vancouver,” Forbes said.

On Dec. 1, Arlene and the Forbes family were at Rogers Arena for the Stars’ game against the Canucks. Heading into the third period trailing 1-0, Forbes said coach Jim Montgomery told the players to think about Arlene and battle for her. Dallas responded and ended up coming from behind to win the game 2-1 thanks to goals from Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov.

“To see those guys and how they dug in and battled just like she was battling during that time, it was impressive,” Kelly said.

Afterward, the Stars presented Arlene and her son with the team cowboy hat and game puck, an honour usually reserved for the players.

“For Jamie [Benn] and the team and Jim Montgomery, our head coach, to basically dedicate that game and the third period to her, I didn’t know it was coming. It came out of nowhere and I didn’t expect it,” Kelly said.

He said it was his mom’s personality, kindness and compassion that made her so loved and respected by everyone in the Stars organization. He said his mom developed connections with Stars players including Benn, who was born in Victoria, but also treated everyone the same regardless of their role or position in life.

“She just treated everybody with kindness and a smile and actually cared and it was genuine and I think that is what everybody loved about her,” Kelly said.

Randy, who had accompanied the team on fathers’ trips, said the Stars’ tribute was incredibly special and meaningful. He said those types of tributes don’t happen for anyone and speak volumes about the kind of individual Arlene was.

“I don’t think it has ever happened to somebody who is not a player or an owner as far as I understand. She just had that ability to engage with everybody,” he said. “It was pretty amazing. That tribute was the icing on the cake of a life well lived is the best way to put it.”

 

Randy and Arlene Forbes. Arlene died from breast cancer on Jan. 23. (Photo provided)

Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, left, stands with Arlene Forbes and her son Kelly, who is the Stars’ video coach, at Rogers Arena on Dec. 1. Arlene and Kelly were presented with the team’s cowboy hat and puck following the Stars’ 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The honour is typically reserved for Stars players. (Photo contributed)

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