Though he never played one minute the University of Denver's Men's Hockey team, Coach James Montgomery says Petey Naffah was definitely one of them.

"He was as much a part of our family as anybody else," Montgomery said.

The coach brought Petey in three years ago to help the man with Down syndrome feel like he was part of a team. Montgomery also wanted his players to learn a little perspective on life.

"It teaches people to be humble and it increases you as a person," Montgomery said.

The volunteer everyone called 'Petey' made an immediate connection with former Team Captain Grant Arnold who graduated two years ago.

"I remember the first day he came in," Arnold said. "I said, Petey, you can hang with me."

From the first day through the next year, Arnold said Petey sat with him nearly every day.

"His personality when you walk in the room is something that you almost had to experience," Arnold said.

Senior Rudy Junda called Petey a positive spirit who was always happy.

"That helped us, you know. He brought us back down to Earth and realized that we're just, you know, we're all just guys," Junda said.

Petey attended practices and every home game.

"Every time he walked in the locker room, you'd hear a big roar of 'Petey!'," Montgomery said. "And, in stressful times he gave us levity and put smiles on our faces and made us realize that can't take ourselves or the game too seriously."

Petey attended the last DU hockey game on Saturday, but in an email sent to the team, his family said he started to feel ill with an earache and headache.

When they took him to the hospital, he was diagnosed with meningitis, according to the email. After unsuccessful treatments, his family says his brain began to swell too rapidly and he died.

"Just the fact that we saw him last week," Junda said. "The shock is difficult to deal with."

Montgomery said he did get to see Petey one last time.

"Thankfully, I had an opportunity to go by the hospital and say goodbye to Petey on behalf of the entire Denver Hockey Program and all his brothers," Montgomery said.

For a sport filled with tough guys, this is definitely a tough time.

"I've always prided myself on being a really tough player to play against and a tough person and this brought me to my knees," Arnold said. "I've been overwhelmed with emotion on much Petey meant to me personally."

Petey's mom said being part of the DU team "made his life".

"It's really hard because he gave us so much happiness," Montgomery said. "That's why it hurts cause we're gonna miss him."