The NWJHL was shaken last week, after the death of a Sexsmith Viper.
17 year-old Joel Zahara died of his injuries, after a two-vehicle accident near Fairview on Sunday morning.
Zahara was playing his rookie year in Sexsmith, and was already leading the team in points.
All accounts suggest he was a likeable kid, with Vipers rep. Robert Schmidt referring to him as a “good young man who treated his coaching staff and teammates with respect.” Schmidt goes on to say “Joel’s impact on this team in 3 months is what most players wish they could leave in a whole season.” –http://www.hometeamsonline.com/teams/?u=SEXSMITHVIPERS&s=hockey&t=c
The Vipers postponed their play on the weekend, and are now set to hit the ice this coming weekend, with home games against Dawson Creek (Nov 13) and Fort St. John (Nov 14).
A moment of silence was held at the North Peace Arena and other rinks around the league this weekend, and we’re not sure at this point what is planned in Sexsmith.
What is clear is that the Vipers are going to be missing a big part of their team for the rest of the season. Not offensively, not in the dressing room, but in their hearts. One of their best and brightest has become the latest casualty of treacherous northern roads, and died far too young.
In a week that all Canadians pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, it’s difficult to put the accidental traffic death of a young hockey player in perspective.
But, I don’t think it’s out of place to say we can still use the occasion to remember Zahara as a young man who loved the game of hockey, worked hard, and treated others with respect. In 17 years, that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind.
Good luck to the Vipers this weekend. Best wishes in dealing with the loss of a friend. And Rest in Peace Joel Zahara.