Sunday was emotional for many in the Energy City and surrounding region, as the community came out in full force to celebrate Mike Sarada Memorial Day.
Crowds swarmed Affinity Place to pay their respects to the beloved minor hockey coach and mentor, who passed away tragically on Janurary 8th.
The events started with a pair of memorial games, with the rosters comprising of former teammates, and family and friends.
Tanner and Cole Denesowych were among the family members who laced up their skates in honor of their cousin.
"It's an honor to be here, and to participate. It's very heartwarming to see all the friends that he's made here over the years playing hockey. Being able to enjoy one last game with all these guys, I know Mike's looking down and smiling," expressed Tanner.
Cole added that Sarada would be leaving "a massive legacy. I mean, he's gonna be missed by a lot of people, as you can see by the outcome, and he's gonna be remembered by a lot of people too."
"He's impacted a lot of the kids he's coached, and they'll know how to be a coach and how to treat their kids when they grow up. He was a role model for a lot of kids," Tanner chimed back in, pointing out that the ripple effect will be felt for generations.
Both men also expressed that Sarada was someone they looked up to when it came to hockey, someone a lot of people wanted to be like.
Kent Bittner also has a long history with Mike. Though not related by blood, they were brothers in a sporting sense, playing together through the bantam and midget years.
"It's great, having all the guys out and just seeing how many lives he's touched, the people in the community, and how much he means to the guys on the ice and in these dressing rooms."
"He was always a great team guy. Worked hard, always looked out for his teammates. I think that carried over into his coaching and what he expected of his boys," he added.
"I played a lot of ball and hockey with Mike, so we shared a lot of summers together, a lot of winters together, and a few beverages along the way. He's a good dude, and we had a close knit group of guys back in the home country, so it's tough, it's never gonna be forgotten."
Following the memorial matches, the Midget AA Apex Bruins hit the ice against Weyburn. Defenceman Carson Benning shared that it was a huge game for him, as he went out and played as he'd been taught by the man himself.
"He was a huge impact on me, and he was a great coach, I liked him a lot. We all wanted to play this game, and it was a fun game to play."
Finally, Sarada's last team, the TS&M Bantam AA Bruins, took their place on the ice against their Weyburn opponents. First however, that game was preceded by a ceremony that included a donation from long time sponsor TS&M, giving $2,200 towards the Mike Sarada Legacy Fund, with the amount being chosen to signify Sarada's jersey number, 22. Other presentations included a $750 donation and poetic recitation from the Weyburn Wings, a tribute video featuring players past and present sharing their memories of Mike, and the giving of two #22 jerseys, one to his family and one to his closest friend.
It will also be a day never forgotten by Tom Copeland, who worked alongside Mike as Head Coach of the Bantam Bruins, and who was among those heading up the organizing committee for the event.
"I think we did a great job. We did what we set out to achieve, to honor Mike's legacy, and I think it's been fabulous."
With cash donations pouring in, and auctions and 50/50 running, he estimated that they would top $20,000, though the final numbers weren't in yet.
"On top of honoring people's legacy, I think a lot of people that didn't understand that there's good quality minor hockey being played in the town, they saw that," he noted.