Saturday, the Edmonton Oilers hosted a livestream celebration of life honouring former player Colby Cave, who died a year ago from a brain bleed. The former Battlefords resident was remembered by Colby’s wife Emily, members of the Cave family, the Oilers organization and others.
“Had I known that I would eventually become his widow just less than nine months after our dreams come true ... I would only have run faster down the aisle to him,” said Emily of marrying the love of her life.
Cave is a former Battlefords AAA Star and a hometown hero for aspiring minor hockey players.
“Cave made a lasting impact both on and off the ice with the Edmonton Oilers and the AHL's Bakersfield Condors, and before that with the Boston Bruins organization and the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. Cave was a consummate professional, well-respected by teammates and opponents alike. He was also a committed and positive member of the communities in which he played, eagerly volunteering for charitable initiatives and always stopping to say hi to fans,” says the Edmonton Oilers website in its announcement of the Colby Cave Memorial Fund, created by the Cave family and the Oilers new.
Proceeds from the fund will go toward Colby's Kids – community programs with an emphasis on mental health initiatives via CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health and providing access to sports for underprivileged children via the former Edmonton Oilers 2nd Shift.
Hockey in Heaven
Remarks forming part of Saturday’s celebration of life were opened by Pastor Joshua Kimes, who said, when he first met Colby, he had no idea who he was, having grown up in Sydney, Australia. But as they got to know each other and became friends, Kimes realized Colby was a “really, really, really good hockey player, and he could fight, too.” He also realized Colby was a “really, really good guy, “ Joshua Kimes
The pastor said Colby was passionate about life and about his game. He said if it hadn’t been there before, hockey would be in Heaven now because Colby was there.
He described Colby as a man of character, kindness, quiet confidence, fun and faith. He was down to earth, said Kimes, and “he was madly in love with Emily.”
Edmonton Oilers teammate Patrick Russell said, “It’s hard to say Colby’s name without a smile on your face,” and added that, “If we could all be just a little bit more like Colby, the world would be a better place.”
Russell said texts he exchanged with his teammate when they knew one of the two of them was about to be sent down to the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, truly personify Colby.
When word came that it was Colby who was going to Bakersfield, he tried to make as light of it as possible, said Russell. His text read, “No worries. I’m happy for you. You really deserve it.”
Russell offered condolences to Colby’s family, describing him as a man of principle, integrity and humility.
“He treated everyone with the utmost respect and will always be remembered this way.”
He thanked the family for raising Colby to be the man he was.
“He loved you guys more than anything in this world. He was so proud of his family.”
Russel said the Colby Cave Memorial Fund will carry on the memory and legacy of Colby. He will always be part of the Oilers organization and the hockey family.
He also said, “We will always be there for you.”
Witness to a dream
When the six-foot-one, 200-pound Colby made his NHL debut with Boston on Dec. 21, 2017, after getting called up from Providence of the AHL, one of his teammates was David Backes, who also spoke as part of the memorial.
Beckes was there for Colby’s first NHL goal. He said Colby basked in pure joy as he huddled with his teammates and soaked up the glory of that first goal – a dream come true.
He remembers also when another dream came true for Colby with the news he may soon be playing for the Oilers, the team he grew up watching.
Addressing Colby’s wife, Emily, he also pledged that Colby’s hockey family would always be there for her.
Through a mother’s eyes
With emotion, but with a mother’s determination to do well by her child, Jenn Cave took listeners back to the day he was born. He was perfect, she said. He looked like his daddy.
Growing up, their son had a large extended family, most of whom lived nearby. He and sister Taylor, the best of buds and playmates, were raised on the farm in a “little old mobile home” and at the lake, their two favourite places lake and farm.
Colby was a typical toddler, said his mother. He wasn’t much of a TV kid, but he loved the movie The Lion King.
“There’s no movie he ever watched more, still loving as an adult.”
He wasn’t a daredevil, she said, and in trying to think of anything he wasn’t good at, the only think she could come up with is driving, as he totaled two vehicles within six months of getting his licence.
Love of hockey started when he could barely walk, she said.
A Halloween bucket became his hockey helmet, as his dad’s helmet was still too big.
“He ate his breakfast with his helmet and cried when he had to take it off,” she said.
He got his first skates when he was three, although the first experience wasn’t his finest.
He started playing hockey at five, and played all his minor hockey in the Battlefords
She said they started to see his abilities in his second year. They saw physical talent and team player qualities.
He didn’t face much adversity until he got to junior hockey and eyed getting to the WHL, she said. That next step was huge, requiring mental and physical maturity. When he was drafted 13th overall in the 2009 Western Hockey League’s bantam draft by the Kootenay Ice it was such an honour, she said, but it also put added pressure on him to perform.
When he was traded to Swift Current, they were glad he was so close, only three hours away. The first year wasn’t easy, she said. He had to learn a lot, manage school and hockey. But, he took on the challenge of earning the respect of his coach and his teammates. He became the captain of the Swift Current Broncos.
In the off season, he came home to work at Battlefords Trade and Education Centre. He loved his job, and his coworkers kept him in stitches.
When he wasn’t immediately picked for the NHL, that disappointment became his spark. Colby excelled at everything he put his mind to, his mother said.
When they finally “got the call,” that he would be playing in Boston that night, they were sad they couldn’t be there. In all their years of hockey they’d tried to get to as many games as possible. But they were happy that Emily could get there. From home,they watched their child achieve his dream as he skated out onto the ice.
“Watching a dream come true just doesn’t get better than that,” she said.
When he joined Edmonton’s team, they were excited to again have him so close to home, although he suffered the disappointment of being sent to Bakersfield.
But he pushed through that, she said, and he and Emily enjoyed the weather change, golfed and sought to see and do as much as possible while they were there.
Away from home, in new surroundings, she said, Colby also became a foodie, and developed a love of shopping.
“He loved to be sharply dressed,” she said, and he even became fond of hats.
Another dream come true was watching him marry the love of his life, Emily, said Colby’s mom.
She described her son as driven, stoic, compassionate, inspirational and genuine, all of which enabled him to become the player and leader everyone looked up to and admired.
Just ‘my brother’
Speaking as part of the memorial, Taylor Cave described herself as Colby’s little sister Tay Tay, or sometimes Poopsie.
She said she never saw him as a profressional athlete, only as “my brother Colb.”
Of her brother, she said, “Everything he did he did with meaning, his hobbies, his jobs his relationships and his interactions.”
She said he never had a conversation that wasn’t meaningful, that he was full of life and adventure there never was a dull moment with him.
“He was a magnet that pulled you in, in the best way.”
As a family they could never have imagined what they have had to go through in the last year, saidbut also could never have prepared us for how impactful he was to so manh people.
She said, “The pain of losing him is an emptiness within me that will never heal.”
Colby was a Bronco
His father, Alan Cave, pointed out that Colby was a Bronco, a Swift Current Bronco, but a Bronco nevertheless, and during the last week, they were grateful to the families of fallen Humboldt Broncos who had reached out to them, this also being the third anniversary of the fatal bus crash.
Visibly heartbroken, he recited from the Humboldt Broncos late coach Darcy Haugan’s Core Covenant, saying Colby lived each one of the articles of the covenant:
Treat my TEAMMATES and COWORKERS with RESPECT.
Be THANKFUL for the opportunity to wear the Bronco jersey.
PLAY each game and practice with PASSION and DETERMINATION.
Conduct ourselves with HONESTY and INTEGRITY.
Treat all volunteers, billets, sponsors and fans with RESPECT and GRATITUDE.
Understand that we are building FOUNDATIONS for future generations with our WORDS and ACTIONS.
Always have HOPE and BELIEVE that everything is possible.
Always GIVE more than you take.
STRIVE for GREATNESS in all areas of life.
‘Ginger Power Couple’
The last to speak was Emily Cave, widowed less than a year after her marriage. She was introduced by Pastor Joshua Kimes. He dubbed them the “ginger power couple.”
Emily said, eight years ago, when she was in Ontario, Colby saw her on Instagram and said to a friend he was going to marry that girl one day. After nearly two years of messages, she finally “caved” and decided to talk to him. She knew he was special and they had to meet. She bought a ticket to Providence.
She said she will never forget him picking her up at the airport. He kissed her and told her he was going to marry her one day.
He was right, she said, and she has no regrets
“Had I known that would eventually become his widow just less than nine months after our dreams come true of us getting married, and me becoming his wife, I would only have run faster down the aisle to him.”
Holding back tears, Emily talked about the things she remembers, “things that happen every day that no one else would see:”
Car rides singing their hearts out to different playlists; walking their puppy Chester; wondering how Chester would handle sharing attention with a baby when they had one; squeezing hands three times as a way of saying I love you; reading books about adopting an orphan from Haiti; always smiling whether it was a good day or bad day, needing nothing in this crazy world but each other.
“We planned our whole lives thinking we were guaranteed all this time,” she said.
She urged people to “hug your husband or your wife, tell them that you love them, that you are proud of them, annoy them, take the videos and the pictures, cherish every little moment.”
About the outpouring of concern for hers and Colby’s families, she said, “It breaks my heart, but fills it up at the same time watching the whole world seeing how incredible my husband was, not just as a hockey player but as a person.”
She told Colby she will spend the rest of her life trying to make him just as proud as she was of him.
He would have been an incredible dad, said Emily.
“We even picked out our baby names.”
Now, his legacy will be shared with youngsters, Colby’s Kids, through the Colby Cave Memorial Fund.
“I promise we will care for so many kids together, through your memorial fund,” Emily told Colby. “Those kids will be our kids and our purpose together. You will guide, support and love all of them through me from Heaven.”
Donations to the Colby Cave Memorial Fund are being accepted by the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation in Colby's memory.
A replay of the Celebration of Life of Colby Cave can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycgd4szmM3M