EAST ALTON – Zack Hunter was an important part of the Alton High School hockey team.

Hunter, who died April 17 of injuries he suffered in an accident in Jersey County April 1, played a key role on both the hockey Redbirds and on the Marquette Catholic boys tennis team (Marquette and Alton play as a combined team in the Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association competition).

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Prior to Wednesday night's season-opening game between the Redbirds and Edwardsville at East Alton Ice Arena, Hunter was remembered with a moment of silence and a ceremonial opening faceoff involving his family, his father Scott, mother Sara and sisters Sophie and Aubrey.

Many Alton supporters wore t-shirts with Hunter's number, 77, on them as well as shirts remembering Zack, and a banner displayed behind Alton's bench had Hunter's No. 77 jersey on it; the Redbirds will be wearing memorial patches and helmet stickers this season to remember his contributions to the Redbirds and to the game.

“He was a very special hockey player; he loved to play,” said Hunter's father Scott. “It was a big part of his life. He liked to play for Marquette, then we merged with Alton. He wanted to come to every game; it's nice to be back at the ice rink.

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“It was his home all year around; there's hockey all the time in our family. I miss watching him play hockey every day and seeing the skills he developed. I have very special memories; I replay them over and over all the time.”

“It's hard to prepare for something when you're still recovering from the huge loss of last season,” said Redbird coach Steven Campbell. “We really can't replace Zack's skills; it's tough.”

“There's a lot of guys in that locker room who played with him,” said Edwardsville coach Jason Walker. “It was a very nice ceremony and something that's been on our of all minds this whole off-season.

“You have these guys who all grow up together and play pickup hockey together; we're all on the same team when it comes to things like this.”

“All the boys are wearing my boy's number on their helmets and their jerseys; it'll be a season of remembrance here,” Scott Hunter said. “It's cool to see them honoring him that way. It means a lot to us.”

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Feeney, 56, is a native of Granite City and graduated from Granite City South in 1978. He was a part-time writer for the old Granite City Journal from 1979-84 before attending Eastern Illinois University in Charleston,
from which he earned his BA in journalism in 1988. He has worked for newspapers in Sikeston, Mo., Rocky Mount, N.C., Seneca, S.C. and in Charleston-Mattoon. He also worked for the old St. Clair County Suburban

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