The local hockey community is mourning the loss of Red Deer Optimist Chief assistant captain Ryan McBeath.
The 17-year-old, from Olds, was killed Tuesday in a vehicle collision.
Jeremy Klessens, an Olds Grizzly since 2015, said McBeath was his best friend.
“He was one of my brothers. Even though he wasn’t on my team, I hung out with him as much as I hung out with my teammates,” said Klessens.
When Klessens first joined the Grizzlys when he was 16 years old, he lived with McBeath’s family for a few days until he found a permanent billet home.
“It was pretty good couple days,” said Klessens. “I was moving away from home when I was so young, and he helped make it easy.”
In just those few days, and the years to follow, Klessens said he and McBeath forged an amazing friendship.
“Every single day we were hanging out,” he said. “We would go to the gym together and push each other as much as we could. When we didn’t want to work out we’d just go to Dairy Queen or hang out at his house. He was such a good guy and everything he did was for other people.”
Klessens was skiing when his billet mom called him and told him about McBeath’s death.
“You don’t ever think one of your best friends will be killed in a crash,” he said. “She told me when I was on a chair lift and I immediately broke down and drove home that night.”
A number of friends and teammates have posted on social media about McBeath. Seeing all those messages means a lot to Klessens, he said.
“A lot of people have texted me the last few hours. It’s really nice to know everyone cares about him and thought he was a great guy,” he said.
Andrew Nielsen, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who grew up in Red Deer, sent his thoughts and prayers to McBeath’s family on Twitter Wednesday.
“I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Ryan McBeath but from the sounds of it he touched the hearts of many, many people. I know that the Red Deer hockey community will come together like (no) other and get through this,” Nielsen said via Twitter.
I didn't have the privilege of knowing Ryan McBeath but from the sounds of it he touched the hearts of many many people. I know that the Red Deer hockey community will come together like non other and get through this. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
— Andrew Nielsen (@A_Nielsen57) March 14, 2018
Neil Robertson, Alberta Midget Hockey League president, said he was deeply saddened by the news of McBeath’s death.
“Whatever support his family and teammates need they should go out and get it,” he said.
The league is there for the Chiefs, Robertson added.
“We’re all here to be with them at their time of loss,” said Robertson. “The hockey community is very close. While we compete on the ice we’re all still family.”
— Tara Veer (@TaraVeer) March 14, 2018
McBeath finished his final season with the Chiefs about a week ago.
He also played three games for the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season and three games with the Grizzlys last season.