GANDER, NL — Spectators choked back sobs on Saturday afternoon as banners were raised at the Steele Community Centre to remember two lost loved ones.
Family and friends of Matthew Sargent, Number 8, and Glen Furey, Number 27, watched with tears in their eyes as the Gander Minor Hockey Association (GMHA) remembered the two players at the opening ceremonies of the first Matthew Sargent Memorial Tournament.
Sargent, 14, died in a boating accident in May 2017. At the time of his death he had played his last tournament in the bantam division and was a member of the Gander Flyers team.
Glenn Furey, 16, grew up in the Gander minor hockey system and played for the bantam and midget all-star teams. Furey died on Christmas Day, 1979, after a battle with cancer.
Both players were on spectators’ minds this weekend.
In the months following Matthew’s death, GMHA members knew they needed to do something to remember him.
“We just knew we had to,” said Suzanne Tiller, parent representative with Gander Minor Hockey. “He was one of our own, and there wasn’t even a second thought (that we should honour his memory).”
The first annual Matthew Sargent Memorial Tournament, which began Jan. 19, was established to honour and celebrates Sargent’s life.
As the song “Let it Go” by James Bay filled the stadium, the eight participating teams skated slowly onto the ice.
They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, and for that moment, hockey was not about competition. It was about comradeship, being part of a family, honour and respect.
And it was about remembering a fallen mate.
There was hardly a dry eye in the stadium and most faces were flushed red. Some tried to hold back tears, while others broke down. Some rested heads their heads on friends’ shoulders, and others hugged and consoled each other.
Along with retiring Sargent’s Number 8 jersey, another banner was raised to honour the memory of Glen Furey, His number – 27 – was retired by the minor hockey association after his passing, and a banner was raised in Glen’s memory during the weekend tournament.
The hockey association has continued to present Glen’s trophy to the most sportsman and most dedicated players in the midget division. A seat in Glen’s memory is also reserved in the Steele community centre.
Suzette Furey, Glen’s sister, spoke on behalf of the Furey family during the opening ceremony.
She said this tournament will continue to help many people cope with loss.
“You have no idea (how important) your presence here today, and your efforts in putting this together are in helping so many people,” she said.
“You bring with you a lot of positive and uplifting energy. This will encourage people to take part in the Matthew Sargent tournament today and in the future.”
Depth of loss
Gordon Sargent, Matthew’s father, said wherever his family went — even on family vacations — Matthew would always run into someone he knew.
The depth of the Sargant family’s loss is an overarching shadow they continue to push through.
“Everything has changed, everything is different,” said Gordon. “Our family is very different. We still struggle to go forward.
“We struggle to talk about mental health in the media and in the open but when you get plunged into it and go through it, you struggle with your whole family going through depression.
“The loneliness and the sadness is just a weight that you can’t lift out yourself.”
Gordon said he always thought of his three sons as his “treasures.”
“And every day I took my treasures and was thankful to God for them; it’s difficult learning to live with this grief and with this loss, and to carry forward and ensure that my children understand I love them every bit as much.”
Gordon is thankful for the community’s support, as well as the GMHA’s work to organize the tournament.
“For everyone who is worried if we are getting love and support, what you saw today was a great demonstration of how much love and support the community has for us,” he said.
Overwhelmed by emotions from the day, Gordon said he and his family will seek some time for reflection.
“I am probably going to come back an evening this week and just sit in the stands and look at (the banner) and cry and absorb it, because there is so much right now that is a great feeling and of a tremendous loss and pain mixed together.”