A Tweet from former WHL player and current Florida Panthers forward Dryden Hunt may have summed up best what people felt about the late Colby Cave.
“I’ve never heard a bad thing said about Colby Cave,” Hunt said. “My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his loved ones. Some things just don’t make sense.”
The 25-year-old forward, who split time with the Edmonton Oilers and the Bakersfield Condors this year, passed away on Saturday in Toronto after suffering a brain bleed earlier last week as a result of a colloid cyst.
As his family returned to Cave’s hometown of Battleford Monday afternoon, there was an incredible outpouring of support as people lined Highway 16 to express their condolences.
For those that got to meet the man or read the stories about him over the last week, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he was one of the most down to earth people you could ever hope to meet.
During my time working in North Battleford, I had the chance to catch up with Cave after he had just finished his second season in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins.
“These last two years in Providence have really helped me to understand what being a pro hockey player is all about,” Cave said during our conversation. “There are a lot of differences from playing junior hockey. You’re living on your own and looking after yourself, and every guy your playing with is also trying to make it to that next level in addition to being a good teammate and helping the team succeed.
“This is my job now and I’m looking forward to doing whatever it takes to reach the highest level.”
Cave did just that with a three game stint for the Boston Bruins the following season and he would find the back of the net for the first time on Dec. 17, 2018 against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Oilers picked him up off waivers last January and he had four points in 44 games over the last two seasons, in addition to putting up 23 points in 44 AHL contests this year for the Condors.
While Cave was still finding his place in the pro hockey ranks, it was already apparently of what type of guy he was.
Although our interview was only about 10 minutes long, we ended up chatting for a half-hour like we had known each other for ages, even though the only other encounter that we had was a brief phone conversation earlier that season.
Once he found out that I was a Soo Greyhounds fan, Cave immediately started to tell me about his new rookie linemate Zach Senyshyn, who had just wrapped up his junior hockey career and moved up to the Bruins’ farm team for the playoffs.
“See the guys like Zach coming up from junior reminded me of what it was like for me when I came up to Providence from Swift Current. It was pretty nerve wracking to come into a new organization like that after playing in junior,” Cave said.
As it turned out, Cave ended up taking Senyshyn under his wing during their time in Providence, which is something that Zach wrote about on Instagram as he paid tribute to his friend on Saturday.
The way that Cave showed the ropes to others also occurred during his days in the Western Hockey League for the Swift Current Broncos.
In addition to putting up 202 points in 287 regular season games, Cave was the captain for the club from 2013 to 2015 and was a key building block in helping to put the Broncos back on track.
“I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for Caver,” tweeted former Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin, who would lead the team to the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2018.
“He showed me what hard work looked like and the true meaning of being a leader.”
Cave’s journey to the pros was an interesting one as he was originally drafted 13th overall by the Kootenay Ice in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, but never played a game for the Cranbrook, B.C. club.
He was dealt to the Broncos as part of the massive Cody Eakin blockbuster trade in 2011 and would make his debut for his new club later that year.
Although he had put up solid numbers during his WHL career, Cave was not drafted by a NHL team until he finally earned a pro contract with the Bruins following his overage campaign.
Like so many people from Saskatchewan, Cave was a hard-working guy that was kind and grateful to anyone he came across.
If more of us were like Colby, the world would certainly be a better place.