Thomas Remembered with Benefit Game
(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) There was one person on the minds of the 48 WHL, SJHL and Midget AAA hockey players that hit the ice on Thursday night here in Moose Jaw.
The Moose Jaw Generals hosted a benefit game in honour of Evan Thomas at Mosaic Place with former teammates coming together to share some stories, laughs and play some hockey in memory of their friend.
“It’s unreal, words can’t describe it, I’m just thankful of everyone that came out, we brought it together pretty quick and we’re really happy with the turnout,” said Ahmed Ally, who helped organize the game, along with Chantz Petruic and Generals head coach Ray Wareham.
Thomas died in Apr. 6’s bus crash that claimed the lives of 16 Humboldt Broncos. All the proceeds from Thursday’s game were going to support the victims of that crash, which rocked the sporting world.
There has been a number of benefit games organized over the prairies since the crash. All with the mindset of helping former teammates and families of those lost heal in their time of grieving.
“Having the boys around to talk to, we’re all going through the same thing, everyone here is feeling the same, so just being able to all come together like this as one and play for him is unreal, it’s exactly what he would have wanted,” said Ally.
Thomas played two seasons with the Generals in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, but he also played a season in Saskatoon with the Blazers before coming to Moose Jaw.
Regina Pats forward Jake Leschyshyn suited up with Thomas in Saskatoon and was able to take time out of his preparations for the 2018 Memorial Cup to play in the game. He said he was really happy to be able to take part in the game and remember a good friend.
“Getting together with guys that all played with him, it meant a lot for us and his family and so it was a fun time in this time of grieving,” said Leschyshyn.
“I know everyone of those guys had fun tonight and it was good to chat and have fun and share some stories about Evan.”
Moose Jaw’s Reece Newkirk, now of the Portland Winterhawks, played on a line with Thomas last season with the Generals. He said it was great to be able to hit the ice and remember Thomas.
“We played together for most of the year on the same line, he was a great kid, we were always smiling together, we’d maybe get mad at each other on the ice, but that’s hockey and it was great knowing him,” said Newkirk.
“This helps out everyone, we all show support for each other and that’s the important thing.”
Evan’s family was on hand for the game with his dad Scott, who is a Warriors Hall of Fame inductee, dropping the puck on the ceremonial face-off and spent time on the bench with both teams throughout the game.
Both teams sported jerseys with “Thomas” across the back and the two numbers that Thomas wore during his time with the Generals. Thomas wore #9 during his final season with the Generals in 2016-17 and that the team announced that they will retire that number next season.
“We’re hoping to hang number nine in the rink somewhere next year,” said Generals head coach Ray Wareham.
“Seeing the support that he got here tonight from all the guys, he’s obviously touched a lot of people in the short time that he had with us and I’m just real honoured to be involved with it. Scott and I have known each other since we were teenagers and to be able to do something like this to show our support to them is fantastic.”
Wareham added that he’s really proud of Petruic and Ally stepping up with the idea for the game and putting everything together for a special night.
“Those two guys put this thing together, we looked after the ice and stuff, but they organized the players and did all that, and for it to turn out as well as it did, just extremely proud, it’s not quite the night that we ever wanted to have, but Evan would be real pleased with what happened tonight,” said Wareham.
Team Petruic skated away with an 8-3 win over Team Ally in the game, but the important part was the funds raised for the Humboldt Broncos throughout the night.
The 50/50 went for $5,470 with the winner’s share being donated back to the fundraising efforts. There was also jersey auctions, a chuck-a-puck and donations being accepted at the door throughout the night.
Compass Group also donated $25,000 to STARS Air Ambulance before the game.
“It was phenomenal, having Evan’s dad here was great to see, we had a lot of fun out there, a lot of laughs and it helped,” said Petruic. “Hopefully we raised a lot of money and it was great to see a lot of guys out there. It meant a lot to get a bunch of guys together that he knew and just helps the healing process, so anything we can do to help is what we’re doing.”