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Viewpoint: The man behind the mask

January 22, 2019

Henri Pfeifle used the mask for the first time in a game on Jan. 5. He hadn’t really practiced with it and he had a little trouble seeing.

“Kind of a questionable move by me,” Pfeifle said. The Darien senior hockey goalie, knowing the Blue Wave had pulled out a 4-3 victory over Xavier of Middletown, gave a small laugh.

The caricature on his mask, of course, evokes much bigger laughter. Pencil neck. Giant orange beak. Big eyes. Large plume above his head. There he is in all his cartoonish glory.

“It’s the Roadrunner,” Pfeifle said. “Teddy played on a men’s league team called the Roadrunners. On the back, it says ‘beep beep.’ On the chin, it’s got the Warner Brothers logo.”

Outgoing, fun-loving, a sweet man, Teddy Maloney was known by his neighbors as the unofficial mayor of his street in Darien. He played goalie at Proctor Academy in New Hampshire, where the rink is named in his honor. Later, during one of the NHL work stoppages, he served as a practice goalie for the Rangers at Rye Playland.

Yes, the Roadrunner mask will make you laugh.

And the Roadrunner mask can make you cry.

“I saw Henri with it on and it sent chills through me,” his dad, Trask, said. “There’s a powerful relationship in this story.”

Trask Pfeifle met Teddy Maloney at Proctor. They played hockey there. They attended New England College in Henniker, N.H., where they played lacrosse. Pfeifle, who grew up in New Hampshire, would spend time in the summers with his friends from Fairfield and Westchester counties. Pfeifle and Maloney, who grew up in Rye and Greenwich, became close friends.

“Best, best buddies,” Trask said. “We did everything together.”

When they graduated, Pfeifle got his first job in New York and lived in the basement of Teddy’s parents house for six months. They got a place in Greenwich with a bunch of guys. It turned out there were five girls living in Old Greenwich. Four of those five married guys from that house, one Heather Pfeifle, another Brinley Maloney. They had children. They advanced their careers.

Which brings us to an early September weekend in 2001. It was Henri’s first birthday party. Of course, Teddy was there. As the work week kicked in on Monday, Trask found himself at the sushi bar at the World Trade Center. This was a regular stop for the guys from work, yet eating alone that day it struck him how quiet it was. Trask still has the receipt from the Sept. 10 lunch.

After work, he got off the train at Darien. He spotted Teddy at the other end of the platform, walking far ahead of him.

“I didn’t yell to him,” Trask said. “I was going the other way. You know, I see him all the time … It was the last time I saw him.”

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, Pfeifle was on the subway going to his office at Canal and Varick in Lower Manhattan when suddenly it stopped. The passengers were told to get out on Houston Street. Pfeifle would start walking.

“I’m like 12 blocks from Ground Zero and I know my buddy is up there,” Trask said. “So many people are up there.”

Maloney was a bond trader for the Cantor Fitzgerald subsidiary TradeSpark on the North Tower’s 105th floor. In all, 2,996 would die that horrible day when terrorists — cowards — crashed United Flight 175 and American Flight 11. Cantor Fitzgerald lost a staggering 658 of its 960 employees.

“My wife and I stayed at Brinley’s house for four, five days with a bunch of other people,” Trask said. “Trying to find Teddy, hoping.”

Edward Francis Maloney III was 32.

“We’ve always been great family friends,” Henri said. “His first daughter Mason became my best friend. We’ve known each other forever. Teddy was the reason I wanted to become a hockey goalie. (Brinley) knew that.”

Henri thinks Brinley gave him the mask for his fifth birthday. Trask thinks Henri might have been 6 or 7.

“For some weird reason, there are a lot of same mannerisms between Teddy and Henri, and there’s a love for being a goalie,” Trask said. “I cannot explain the connection. I really cannot. But there’s something to it and Brinley caught onto that.

“Teddy had a bunch of stuff, goalie books and things. Brinley would pass them on to Henri. One day she found the helmet. Henri had this desire to be a goalie. I personally don’t like goalies. I didn’t want to pursue it with him, but he loved it so much.”

So there it was.

“That helmet was always in my room,” Henri said. “Sitting there.”

Trask had played with Teddy on the Roadrunners. He knew the mask had been painstakingly painted at Rye Arts. For Henri’s birthday this past September, Trask came up with the idea to get it refurbished. He sent the mask away to a company in New Hampshire. The helmet would need new padding. The cat-eye mask would need to be changed to high-school specifications.

“You see it and it looks brand new,” Trask said, “but at the same time it looks like it did 20 years ago.”

“The helmet came back around Christmas time,” Henri said. “I sent Mason a picture of it. She loves it. She thought it was awesome. She goes to all the games. So it’s very cool for her.”

The 2001 stories of 9/11 are profound as they are painful. In the Hartford Courant archives there is a story about the Maloney family. Teddy’s aunt talked how Mason, only 1, would kiss her daddy’s picture and wouldn’t let go of it. Brinley was pregnant at the time and their second daughter would be named after their father.

“Teddy has a daughter he never met,” Trask said, softly. “I’ve packed a lot of this away over the years, but it will affect me the rest of my life. I’m still dealing with it.

“The fact Henri wanted to wear the mask speaks a lot about him. Without really knowing the guy, they have this crazy connection. It just blows my mind.”

A midfielder, Henri will play lacrosse at Drexel next school year. Mason, also a senior at Darien, will play lacrosse at Elon. The Roadrunner mask, though, is for the winter game. An all-state goalie as a junior, Henri has played four games with it. Darien has moved up to the No. 2 ranking in the state.

“Growing up, before games I’d think about Teddy,” Henri said. “I even talked before the game to give my team encouragement. I’m always getting texts from Teddy’s family about how I’m doing in hockey. They keep in touch. I was talking to my dad about it and he was saying how great it is to see the helmet out on the ice. It’s almost as if Teddy’s hockey career is continuing on through me, which is nice.”

Henri decided it would be fitting to put a couple of stickers on the back of his new helmet. One has the dates of Teddy’s birth and death. The other, put there by a young man who was one year and one day old when Teddy Maloney disappeared in the Twin Towers, carries two words.

“Never forget.”

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123

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