To say that Mike Sarada made an impact on the community of south east Saskatchewan would be an understatement.
On Monday, the community lost a son, uncle, coach, friend and boyfriend when he was struck and killed by a semi just north of Estevan on Highway 39. While Sarada was not married, he leaves behind his girlfriend and her children who he had become a father figure to.
Sarada spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach with the Bantam AA Estevan TS&M Bruins and was on his way to practice in Estevan from Midale, when he exited his vehicle and was killed.
"Off the ice he cared about his family," explained Bruins Head Coach and friend, Tom Copeland. "His parents, his nieces and nephews, he was just a great family man. I don't know if Mike had an enemy in the world, sometimes when people pass away you hear stories but at the end of the day he was top shelf and he's an irreplaceable human being. Outstanding, intelligent, well-educated, very positive, very well though out. Mike was always there to calm us down on the bench and bring that better perspective, he was certainly good for me and Jeff (Clauson) would say the same thing."
Mike ended up in south east Saskatchewan after moving from Melville in his 20's and made himself at home playing senior hockey for the Bienfait Coalers and Midale Mustangs, where he won three league championships. Following his playing career in the Big Six Hockey League, Sarada quickly became Copeland's right hand man on the bench for the Bantam AA Bruins, where Copeland got to see first hand just the type of person Sarada was.
"I coached against Mike when he played in Midale, I coached in Bienfait and we ended up playing some rec hockey together. When I got the coaching job five years ago with this team, he was the first obvious guy that came to mind and our friendship just grew from there. Our other assistant coach is Jeff Klassen and he and Mike were very very close, we have a very tight knit group of what was the three of us, it's a big loss for us beyond hockey and personally."
"Believe me, Mike's legacy will live on in a lot of kids, he had a lot to be proud of as a hockey coach." - Tom Copeland.
"Some kids will take it harder than others, particularity the second year kids that have been with Mike for a while that have worked closely with him and had just a tremendous level of respect for eachother. At the end of the day Mike wouldn't want these guys sitting around pouting about it and we'll choose to use the rest of the season and moving forward as a celebration of Mike's legacy with these kids. Believe me, Mikes legacy will live on in a lot of kids, he had a lot to be proud of as a hockey coach. I've gotten a lot of texts from former parents and players being extremely sad that Mike's gone. It's one of those things where you don't appreciate what you have till it's gone but I can say that it's sad for kids all over the place that have played for Mike over the years.
Not only did Sarada's attitude and personality help mold the young minds of hockey players in south east Saskatchewan, his presence could be felt in the business community with his work through the Richardson Foundation.
"Mike's one of the best people I knew. The highest level of ethics, very moral guy, family driven and legitimately cared. If you google Mikes name for example, the first several things that pop up, are him with a great big cheque through the Richardson Foundation donating to all of the communities around south east Saskatchewan. I know for a fact that Mike was fairly instrumental in ensuring that Richardson Foundation money was being divided up around the south east corner of the province, always happy to be standing there."
"The reach is extensive, I can't tell you how many people will be thinking about Mike." - Tom Copeland.
"I know recently he moved to Midale with his girlfriend and I think he became a little more involved in the community of Midale. I know there's a lot of people who know 'Grain Merchant Mike'. "For a guy who was single in his 40's with no kids of his own, he touched a lot of lives and it's really neat to sit back and think about the amount of lives he did touch in a positive way. I give him credit for that, that's a life well lived and he will be missed. He'll be missed by everyone from hockey to work to the community, just an amazing guy overall," Copeland concluded.