It was a busy weekend for sports in Oceanside, but for two local teams the games themselves were secondary, as the players and coaches took time to honour the memory of Lukas Whibley.
On Friday afternoon, the Ballenas Secondary School Whalers football team hosted the Spectrum Thunder from Victoria (see story page A40).
Prior to the opening kickoff, both teams lined up at centre and the players removed their helmets for a minute’s silence.
The Whalers then took to the field with each player’s helmet featuring a specially designed decal on the back depicting a pair of crossing lacrosse sticks through a football with his name and number (50) — which will remain in place for the season, a season dedicated to Whibley, and for years to come.
Whibley, who died in a tragic fall at Little Qualicum Falls Aug. 9, played two seasons with the Whalers.
“It was surreal,” Whalers’ head coach Jeremy Conn said of the emotions during the moment of silence.
“For a lot of the kids it was about taking pride in honouring his memory, about being respectful, about appreciating the chance to be healthy and be able to play football.”
On Saturday evening, close to 300 spectators turned out at Oceanside Place for the Save-On-Foods Generals VIJHL pre-season game against the Nanaimo Buccaneers (see story above).
Prior to the opening face-off, Lukas’ mother Sally, along with two of her son’s good friends — Cameron Greeno and Robert Tickell — stood at centre ice for a touching tribute.
Lukas, a recent Ballenas grad, “participated and excelled in various sports teams in the Parksville, Qualicum and Nanaimo area. His positive attitude, hard work, team spirit and engaging smile won him many friends and built strong relationships.”
Lukas’ uncle Terry dropped the ceremonial first puck, and for those in attendance it was, in the words of one spectator, “a heart-wrenching reminder about just how fragile life is.
A somber Gens’ captain Travis Flug, also a good friend of Lukas’, presented Sally with flowers.
“I’m just overwhelmed with the community support,” Sally said after the tribute.
“It does help, it really does,” she said. “I don’t think that I would have been able to make it through these last three weeks without all the community support, and I’m sure the family all feels the same. We’ve been so well supported by the community, through hugs and letters and cards, and… it’s just unbelievable what they’re doing.
“It’s like we’re all one big family and we all lost someone, I mean the community is so tight, it’s hard,” added Greeno.
“The opening ceremonies were very emotional,” Gens’ assistant coach Rob Gaudreault said after the game. “We had quite a few players on our side that were good friends with Lukas,” he said and pointed out there were also players on the Buccaneers that were close to Whibley, including their Oceanside captain Noah Russi.
“It was emotional on both sides, but overall I think the kids got past it and played for Lukas.”
The evening also featured a silent auction to raise money for the Lukas Whibley Memorial Scholarship Fund, and the response, confirmed Generals secretary Elizabeth Cudmore “was amazing.”
Indeed. While the final numbers are still being tallied, Cudmore says the silent auction along with donations brought in excess of $4,000.