The annual Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C Hockey Tournament brings comfort for John Andrews and his family from a tragic situation that’s never far from their thoughts.
Andrews’ son Zak is part of the memorial group celebrated through hockey and uniting families who’ve been affected by similar circumstances from the loss of loved ones far too early.
The 10th anniversary of the tournament and third since it was expanded from the Ryan Clark Memorial takes places Friday through Sunday at Fuller Lake Arena, with games also at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan.
Zak, a goalie just like Clark who enjoyed the game and had a personality larger than life, was killed by a driver going the wrong way on the Nanaimo Parkway on Oct. 5, 2015. The driver who crashed into his car went more than a kilometre going the wrong way and was found to have been high on meth and marijuana at the time.
“I think of Zak every day,” said dad John Andrews, who grew up in Chemainus and has now lived in Ladysmith for 28 years. “That night, it’s still constant, but it’s not every day.”
He’ll never forget that fateful knock on the door from the RCMP at 1:30 in the morning that every parent dreads even thinking about.
“It was really hard to describe,” he confided. “You’re in shock. Mentally, you understand he’s not going to be coming home. It was horrible.”
Other young people who died way before their time and had their families brought together by tragedy to share their memories through the hockey tournament include: Brayden Gale, Eric Kernachan, Clark, Paige Whitelaw, Christina McLeod and Caleb Kroffat.
“It’s unfortunate but it’s nice to be with people who are helping to memorialize the kids,” said Andrews.
“The first year was difficult for me, just being in the arena. Last year and this year, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s kind of therapy for me.”
Andrews enjoys taking photographs at the event, documenting the action and presentations of the unique awards catering to the special traits of each honoured player. Zak’s is given out to the Mr. Personality of the tournament.
Zak was the father of a boy, Cooper Dunlop, who’s now five, and a daughter who was born just before he died.
Zak’s adventurous spirit will always be remembered and the hockey tournament helps put it all into perspective. A full profile will be posted at the arena during the tournament.
Zak loved to be on the ice from an early age.
“We did the parents and tots up at the arena before he was eligible for hockey,” recalled John. “He must have been five-ish.”
He joined hockey in novice and worked his way up to midget. John was his coach all along the way and, unlike some who don’t like to have their parents behind the bench, Zak was happy with that.
“He loved goalie right from Day One,” noted John.
All Zak’s hockey was played at the house league level, but he did get called up for one game of midget B rep hockey with the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“He was really proud of that,” said John. “He got to put his tie on.”
Zak actually played in the Ryan Clark Memorial three times and it’s only fitting he’s now among the honourees as well with that direct connection. And John is ready for it again with camera in hand.
“I’ll be there all three days, taking about a million snaps,” he enthused. “It keeps me busy. It keeps me involved in it.”