It is often said that the greatest and truest of hearts shine in moments of chaos and disorder.
When the time called for the utmost showing of respect and class, the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association’s Under-18 Midget B team executed spectacularly.
At the recent Richmond International Midget AAA tournament in Surrey, B.C., in Canada, the U-18 Ice Hawks faced the home team — the Surrey Midget A1 Thunder — which were under the stress of losing multiple family members in the month leading up to the tournament.
The most shocking of those lost was the fatal beating of one of the player’s mothers. Julie Paskall, 53, was attacked outside of the Newton Wave Pool and Recreation Center on Dec. 29, a Sunday, one day before the Thunder were scheduled to play the KPHA Ice Hawks. It wasn’t until Tuesday that Paskall succumbed to her injuries.
In addition to Paskall’s death, the team lost manager Keith Renton to a heart attack just days before Christmas, and three other players lost a grandparent in December as well.
Paskall’s son, Cailean, did not play the Monday game, and Surrey’s head coach Darwyn Shawara made a decision to explain to the officials and Ice Hawks coaches and players the nature of the situation.
Hunter Sirois, the Ice Hawks head coach, said he had a brief talk with KPHA team captain Jonas Perletti before the game, who had been a late addition to the tournament team.
“I just leveled with him, just wanted to touch base with him,” Sirois said.
Perletti then made the decision to skate over to the Surrey bench in an attempt to put their minds at ease. Sirois said Perletti could sympathize with the team since he had also been through some rough times with family members.
“The Ice Hawks were all class, their team captain came over to our bench and thanked us for playing and afterwards their goalie came and thanked us, too,” Shawara told the Vancouver Sun newspaper. “We won 2-1 and it was well-played, everyone knew there wasn’t going to be any shenanigans.”
Sirois said the game itself was predictably clean, as each side held off on extracurricular rowdiness. In fact, Sirois believes the lack of aggressiveness might have been the determining factor in the 2-1 loss.
“Usually when you have emotions like that, the emotions turn into penalties,” Sirois said. “There was no extra stuff, it was one of the cleaner games I’ve seen.
“At first, the respect level was a little too much, I had to remind them that it was a hockey game.”
After the game, the Ice Hawks’ goalie, Cody Harvey, was presented with the game MVP. As an additional sign of sympathy, Harvey went over to shake the hand of every player and coach on the Thunder.
“You could see the respect back and forth, it was really good to see,” Sirois said. “I wasn’t sure how we would come out, but it’s amazing what the mind and body can do.”
The gesture also caught the attention of Surrey team manager Curtis Murphy, who emailed the KPHA organization to express his gratitude.
“I’ve never seen a player such as your goalie, receive an MVP award at the end of the game and skate down the line and shake the hand of every single player and coach of our team,” Murphy wrote in the email. “The number of supportive comments from your parent group to ours was a final testament to the amazing team you assembled. Truly classy! But I’m sure you know this already!”
On the trip home, Sirois said the tournament wasn’t discussed too much, but the effect on the former high school player was not lost.
“It was one of those moments I can’t even describe,” Sirois said. “I’ve coached other teams, but this was one of the most interesting tournaments I’ve coached. I’ve been around quite a few things, but never has such an incident been so freshly removed from that happening, it was kind of a shock to that community. I mean, it literally happened the night before.
“I would say it was a complete trip and a good trip representing our community.”
In his email, Murphy drove the point home that the Ice Hawks became the perfect team to help lift the Thunder’s spirits.
“I thought it important that you should know of all of this because with everything going on in our lives right now, your team had a positive impact on us and we thank you for that,” Murphy wrote.