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He’s giving back. One 'Resilience’ T-shirt at a time

Jack Doherty wore one of his Resilience shirts he makes at College Hype.
Jack Doherty wore one of his Resilience shirts he makes at College Hype.Bill Brett for The Boston Globe

WEYMOUTH — He was never a hockey star.

At Catholic Memorial High School in the early 1980s, Jack Doherty got cut from the team two years in a row. He loved the lightning-quick game that — it seemed — would not love him back.

But, later, after he married, raised a family, and grew his small business, Doherty kept lacing up his skates. Kept taping up his stick. His time on the ice just a pastime now. But a precious one.

He loved the familiar rhythm of it all. Free time with the guys. A couple hours away from the demands of everyday life. A low-stakes men’s league. Skating with friends. Parking-lot beers afterward with the boys.

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So that’s where he was in October 2013, on the ice at Connell Memorial Rink in Weymouth.It was after 10 p.m. What happened next would change his life.

“I was playing defense,” Doherty recalled the other day as we sat — fully masked — at his office here in Weymouth. “I was at the blue line. And all of a sudden, I said, ‘Oh [expletive]! And then it happened.’’

A heart attack dropped Doherty to his knees on the ice. And then he went out cold.

Very cold. And very blue.

“But I remember knowing that everything was going to be all right,” he said. “I knew. I don’t know why. I have no idea. Sort of an out-of-body experience. What happened was that when I hit the ice, I was dead for seven minutes.”

His hockey friends scrambled. They began chest compressions. They opened an airway and blew air into his lungs. Paramedics arrived. His skates were cut from his feet.

And, after a high-speed ride in the ambulance, he was seen by a man who would become a close friend.

His name is David Litvak. He’s an interventional cardiologist at South Shore Hospital. And he knows how vital the quick work done on the ice that night by Jack Doherty’s friends — and the performance by those paramedics in the ambulance — was.

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“He was groggy but awake and alert,” Litvak told me the other day, remembering the first moment he met Jack Doherty. “A lot of people in his situation arrive and they’re unconscious. They’re basically in a coma.”

But not Doherty. He came out of it ultimately, a credit to his CPR-trained friends.

“I’m grateful to be able to help anyone who has had a heart attack,” the doctor said. “When you have someone who is basically your exact same age with five children, it’s incredibly meaningful and satisfying to be able to help them.

“You don’t help someone because they’ll give back. But when you help someone who helps like Jack does, it makes you feel like you’re doing something special.”

Something special. That’s exactly what Jack Doherty, 51, is doing now in the middle of a pandemic that has become the biggest — most urgent, most deadly — thing that has ever happened to most of us.

That former college kid who dabbled in the T-shirt business beginning in the eighth grade, pursuing it during his undergraduate years at Westfield State College — “Westfield State: Eat. Drink. And Get Written Up” — is now the owner of College Hype.

It’s a $5 million company with 30 employees who were cranking out T-shirts and hats, hoodies, and button-down sweaters until the coronavirus swept across the globe.

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So Jack Doherty had to rethink his business in an era where there are no ballgames, no barroom beers, no parades, no parties — but plenty of social distancing.

“So I’m thinking about the word ‘resilience,’” he said. “I’ve heard it from my kids. I heard it from a friend. Everybody’s resilient. And I thought: ‘Well, nurses are resilient.’ I’m thinking: ‘Resilience 2020.’ I’m like: ‘This could work. This could actually become a whole line.’ And then I’m like: ‘I’m going to make them up for some of the nurses at South Shore.’”

So that’s what he did. The place that saved his life now needed help.

So he printed the shirts. And the caps. And the button-downs. And, before he knew it, they began to fly out the door.

Social media served as a propulsion system. Friends told friends. Who told other friends.

Before he knew it, orders began to roll in. So did the money. As of last week, he’d raised enough money to donate $15,000 apiece to South Shore Hospital and Boston Medical Center.

“South Shore Hospital helped save my life,” he explained. “Boston Medical Center saves everyone else’s life.”

Norman Stein, BMC’s chief development officer and senior vice president, said College Hype’s help has allowed the hospital to invest in the safety of its front-line staff.

“It really elevated the meaning of this gift and made it much more special,” Stein said.

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Doherty is hoping to send more money to the hospitals so they can supply staff members with personal protective equipment. He’s hoping to do it for as long as this pandemic lasts. He’s shooting for $50,000 for each of the hospitals.

“We’re doing something that we’re good at,” said Doherty, who joined South Shore Hospital’s board of trustees in 2015. “So we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

For him it’s simple. The place that saved his life needs help. So he’s going to help.

“I really try to find the good in people,” he told me. “I really do. I tell my kids: ‘Every day you should try to do some good for someone. Not a lot. Just something. Even if it’s just to give someone a shirt, which is easy.’

“You should always try to do something. Buy someone a coffee. I have always believed that. But if you think about what those guys did for me that night? That’s phenomenal. People say: ‘What do you do when you run into one of these guys who saved your life?’ I’m like, ‘I give them a hug.’

“Well, I used to be able to give them a hug.”

Yes, the days of the casual hug may be over for now. Maybe for a long time.

So Jack Doherty is expressing his gratitude one T-shirt at a time.

You can’t miss it. It says: “Resilience 2020.”

The guy who knows all about resilience — the guy who nearly died that night on the ice at the blue line — is hoping it catches on.

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Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.