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Cowichan Valley hockey tournament unites families affected by tragedy

Mother and sister of Brayden Gale proud to have him among the honourees
Laura Robertson, left, and Shar Gale with the trophy that will be awarded to the player with the most heart in the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget Hockey Tournament. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The tragic events of Nov. 25, 2015 at Chemainus Lake are constantly on the minds of Laura Robertson and Shar Gale.

That’s the day Brayden Gale, Robertson’s son and Shar’s brother, was enjoying a peaceful fishing outing with a friend when their canoe capsized. The friend managed to reach a nearby dock, but Gale didn’t make it. He was just 22 years old.

Robertson remembers all too well the day she got the call at work about what happened. It’s every mother’s worst nightmare.

Ironically, Gale was rather fearless - an energetic, ambitious young man who even had an interest in flying planes.

“He actually flew solo and before he even got his full driver’s license,” Robertson pointed out.

Gale was working in the oil camps in Alberta and taking a break at home at the time of the incident.

“He had basically been home two days,” his mom said. “He had one more stint to go to camp and he was done.

“He hadn’t even unpacked. He decided he had to go fishing because he missed the lake.”

Gale had other plans to pursue and intended to become a paramedic when those ambitions were dashed in the most unimaginable way by the unfortunate accident.

“He had the biggest heart of anybody,” noted sister Shar. “He was the most selfless caring person ever.”

Brayden Gale is one of seven people being honoured and remembered during the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget Hockey Tournament that started out as the Ryan Clark Memorial, but was transformed last year to bring together families affected by similar losses of loved ones.

It’s been such a huge comfort to the families to share their grief and personal losses, and a great avenue for healing as a community.

“When you lose someone, a parent or a child, that’s what you want,” said Robertson.

In each case with the individuals, hockey was a big part of their lives. Unique awards have been named after each of them and the respect shown last year by the recipients just blew away the families and tournament organizers.

They’re sure it’ll be more of the same during this year’s tournament that runs Friday through Sunday, with games at Fuller Lake Arena and the Island Savings Centre in Duncan.

“This is why minor hockey doing this is fabulous,” noted Robertson. “As a parent, you never want anybody to forget your child. All this stuff is healing.”

The Gales will be stationed with the Kroffats in Duncan to take in as much tournament action as they can and eventually present the award for the player with the most heart that’s fitting with Brayden’s personality.

“He grew up here playing hockey,” noted Shar.

Lacrosse was also a regular sporting activity for him.

The important thing about this event, Robertson conceded, is “just keeping his memory alive.”

Former Cowichan Valley Capital Laurent Brossoit, who went on to play for the Edmonton Oilers, paid tribute to Brayden at his service. Brossoit was the Gales’ billet when he came to Cowichan in 2009.

“Brayden and I right away had so much in common,” he noted. “We liked the same stupid show, the same sports, the same video games, the same music. Feeling at home at the Gales was such a relief for me. But Brayden even went further and made sure that my schooling transition was just as smooth.

“Every day I would spend lunch at the school. He would go out of his way to make sure I was included in his group. It’s just those little things that go such a long way. With Brayden you truly, truly believed his concerns were genuine.”

Shar went literally above and beyond as a tribute to her brother on his March 28 birthdate last year.

“I’ve always had this awful fear of flying,” she said.

But on that date Shar braved the elements at the Victoria Flying Club. “I flew a plane,” she enthused.

Good things often come from horrible accidents and this is no exception. Life rings have now been placed at the Maple Bay dock and park, and at Chemainus Lake. In the event of any mishaps, they’re readily available for use.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” summed up Robertson. “He was doing something he loved.

“But I have a hole in my heart that will never be healed.”

The Brayden Gale Trophy for the player with the most heart. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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