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Former British Columbia professional hockey player, Burnaby firefighter dies at the age of 38

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A former British Columbia professional hockey player turned firefighter died of a heart attack while playing hockey in Richmond on Monday night.

Raymond Sawada, 38, had just celebrated the birthday of one of his two young daughters and was playing hockey at the Richmond Ice Center when he suddenly slipped on the bench.

A first responder teammate tried to resuscitate him.

“They worked frantically on him. There was a fireman and a pacemaker – he had access to it. And so the paramedics said the group did everything they could to help, and it just wasn’t meant to be,” said the Richmond Sox president. Doug Patterson. , “It’s very sad.”

Sawada played for the Richmond Sox from 2001-2003 before attending Cornell University and joining the Dallas Stars. He played in 11 NHL games between 2008 and 2011.

Six years ago, Sawada became a firefighter in the city of Burnaby. He left behind his wife and two daughters.

“The shock is real. It doesn’t feel real, it’s like a nightmare,” Raymond’s twin brother, Stephen Sawada, told CTV News outside the family home in Richmond.

“I mean the family is broken, crying… beside her. It really is like a hole that can’t be filled for the rest of our lives.”

Close friend Roger Xiong says the late Sawada had a great influence on his life.

“I know Ray was a great hockey guy, community guy, and firefighter, but for me, I knew him as a family man and watched his kids grow up. I was there for the birth of her two daughters,” Xiong said.

Lily Ayala, a close friend of Sawada’s widow, Nicole, described him as a wonderful human being.

“Ray did it all 110%. Whether he was a dad, a hockey player, or a firefighter, he was so proud. He touched so many people in so many ways because he was such a great friend,” said Ayala.

“It shook the whole community,” Patterson said. “I can only imagine what his family is going through. And I’m telling you, Sookie’s family is just devastated. I get a lot of calls and people reach out to me.”

A GoFundMe account was set up Tuesday afternoon to help Sawada’s family and has already raised more than $235,000. The original goal was $50,000.

“I’m not surprised,” Xiong said. “He’s touched a lot of people’s lives in a lot of different areas, whether it’s hockey or firefighting or volunteer work. And he’s just a wonderful guy from the Steveston community.”

“I think the GoFundMe financial score is just a response to Raymond getting things you can’t buy. It’s respecting your friends,” Stephen Sawada said.

He is grateful to everyone who donated to help his brother’s wife and daughters.

“The reality of life is that it will have to pay bills, children will have to play sports and other obligations, and life will have to pay the price. So I really appreciate everyone who contributed.”

The Richmond Sowkes plan to honor Sawada, who has been a valued member of the alumni team for years.

We will prepare a scholarship in the name of Ray. We’re having an awards lunch this weekend, so we’ll get to know Ray. “We’re going to retire his shirt,” Patterson said, adding: “Five weeks ago we were preparing for the play-offs and they invited him to give a pep talk to our players. I remember his words very well. I will always remember that.”

Asked about his twin brother’s legacy, Stephen Sawada said: “Intensity of gentleness – he loved competition, but fair competition. He always wanted to win, but he wanted half. He wasn’t the biggest loser, but he always came back to fight. And I think it’s going to be like that.” his legacy. It instilled that in a lot of people, including me. »

His other legacy? His two daughters, he coaches their hockey teams. “We’ll make sure his daughters remember what kind of man he was,” Xiong said.

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