An emotional tribute was held on Saturday in Strathmore, Alta., to honour a hockey player who was killed earlier this year.
Drumming filled the Strathmore Family Centre Arena Saturday night. It was part of a tribute to Kristian Ayoungman, a former Strathmore Wheatland Kings player who was shot to death on March 17.
“He was the nicest guy you could ever meet. Anything you needed, he was there for you,” said Shadoe Stoodley, a former head coach of the Strathmore Wheatland Kings.
“You couldn’t say a bad thing about him. He was honestly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and it was an honour to know him and it was an honour to coach him.”
Kristian’s No. 11 jersey was retired in the arena filled with friends, family, and former and current players. His mother Melodie Hunt-Ayoungman was overwhelmed by the support from the town of Strathmore, the Wheatland Kings hockey team and the Siksika Nation.
“It’s a tough thing to go through and you don’t expect to go through it. Coming to events like this, it’s just a reminder of how much love my son had. People can’t comprehend what I’m going through and this is their way of showing their support,” Hunt-Ayoungman said.
In October, Hunt-Ayoungman was heartbroken when her vehicle was broken into in Lethbridge and Kristian’s championship ring was stolen. It was a precious memento she always kept with her.
Stoodley was the head coach of the Strathmore Wheatland Kings when Kristian played his last Junior B year. He was also Kristian’s coach when they won the championship rings with the Wheatland Midget AA team.
On Saturday night, Stoodley gave his championship ring to Kristian’s mom. Stoodley said he didn’t think twice about gifting the ring to Hunt-Ayoungman but said it’s sad that it took a young player’s violent death to bring everyone together.
“It’s terrible to see but if you can take a positive out of it, you have to. It was amazing that they [retired Ayoungman’s jersey]. It was emotional and I was happy to see it. You see two communities come together,” Stoodley said.
Two brothers are now charged with first-degree murder in connection with Kristian’s death. His mother said the support she saw on Saturday has given her a sense of comfort at a time when she has lost so much.
“I’m just grateful to have pieces of him and that’s all we can hang on to,” Hunt-Ayoungman said.