Losing is something every hockey team endures, but a Bantam hockey team in Estevan is dealing with a loss of much greater magnitude.
The Estevan TS&M Bantam AA Bruins have confirmed assistant coach Mike Sarada was the victim in a deadly crash along Highway 39 on Monday.
“[There’s] a lot of sadness around Mike’s death. It’s very tragic. A lot of people are fairly down. It’s one of those ones that hits your community pretty hard,” the team’s head coach Tom Copeland told 980 CJME.
While RCMP continue to investigate the details of the crash, a police news release said the victim was pulled over on the side of the road and was struck when he got out of the vehicle.
Copeland said the team was practicing on Monday night and 44-year-old Sarada — who lived in Midale with his girlfriend — was driving on the highway around 5:50 p.m. on his way to join the team at practice.
“He cared about those kids and I think they cared about him back. They really appreciated the work that he did for them,” Copeland said.
He called Sarada an outstanding coach and an outstanding person. Copeland said he was approached about five years ago to take over the Bruins program and the first guy he thought of to help was Sarada. During that time, Copeland said Sarada did an excellent job building better hockey players. He seemed to find hidden skill, turning players who had no business on defence into defensemen Copeland explained.
“I’ve described him as probably the best-kept secret in Saskatchewan as far as coaches go.”
“There’s a legacy there. If you look at the amount of lives that guy’s touched over the last five years just coaching kids, let alone everything else that he’s done in his life, he’s touched a lot of kids’ lives.”
A number of text messages have come in from former players, parents and those from all over the hockey world sending condolences. Copeland said Sarada was the type of man who didn’t have an enemy in the world.
Outside of hockey, Copeland said Sarada worked for Richardson Pioneer as a grain merchant and was often seen making cheque presentations to a variety of community organizations on behalf of the Richardson Pioneer Foundation.
Sarada was also described as family-oriented. While he did not have any children of his own, Copeland said Sarada thought the world of his nieces and nephews and was very involved with his girlfriend Tammy’s kids, often attending their events.
Described as a quiet, soft-spoken, soft-hearted man with a passion for life, the Bruins coach said the team will try hard to use the rest of the season to celebrate Sarada’s life.
“They say the good die young and this is certainly a situation where the good died young,” said Copeland.
“He is irreplaceable…it’s a tough loss and we will miss him.”