Valerie Leung – Richmond News
Richmond’s Minoru Arena was maxed out on Thursday evening with athletes, friends, family and firefighters in the stands to watch the late Raymond Sawada’s jersey fly high to the rafters.
The jersey retirement ceremony was attended by Sawada’s wife, Nicole, and two daughters, Victoria and Charlotte, as well as Richmond Sockeyes president Doug Patterson, Burnaby firefighters and athletes.
Sawada was a local hockey hero who played junior hockey for the Richmond Sockeyes from 2001 to 2003 and became a firefighter with the Burnaby fire department after retiring from his hockey career, which included playing for the NHL.
The 38-year-old passed away while playing recreational hockey in Richmond earlier this year.
“We’re here to honour a son, brother, husband, father, firefighter and of course a hockey player. Ray was all of these things and so much more,” said Drew Savage, emcee of the ceremony.
“His drive, humility, humour and compassion and his love for everyone is a legacy all of us should strive to continue.”
Sawada’s jersey number was raised with salutes and tears with all eyes glued to the rising number, followed by 27 seconds of silence and the singing of the national anthem.
Retiring a jersey number is a way for a sports team to honour a player who retires or passes away by taking his number out of circulation, meaning no other athlete on the team can wear the number unless given special permission.
During the event, the Burnaby firefighters presented Sawada’s firefighter team hockey jersey number 12 to the Sockeyes after the team took home gold in the World Police and Fire Games held in Winnipeg this year.
In addition, Burnaby Firefighters Local 323 president Scott Alleyn and deputy fire chief Miles Ritchie presented a cheque of $27,000 to the Richmond Sockeyes as a donation in memory of Sawada.
The money will be used to set up as a bursary to subsidize players to the tune of $1,000 per year for 27 years.
Sawada’s wife and two daughters made an official puck drop for the start of the Richmond Sockeyes and Grandview Steelers.