Members of the junior hockey world joined in mourning Prince Albert native, and former WHL player Matt Swaby, who died in a farming accident on Friday, Nov. 26.
Swaby suited up for the Tri-City Americans for three seasons before captaining the Edmonton Oil Kings in their inaugural season. He then returned to Saskatchewan where he played three seasons with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Swaby played two seasons with the Prince Albert Mintos before heading to the WHL. He leaves behind a wife and three boys, ages two, four, and six. He was 34 years old.
“He was just a good kid, a solid defenceman, and everyone liked him,” Mintos president Zenon Markowsky remembered. “He was well liked. Everybody gathered around him. He was a leader—a natural leader.”
Markowsky said he was stunned to hear about Swaby’s passing. The former Minto had even attended one of the club’s recent games with his family not long before he died.
The Mintos plan to hold a short ceremony in Swaby’s honour before they take on the Saskatoon Blazers at the Art Hauser Centre on Wednesday.
“He was always a wonderful guy,” Markowsky said. “We were very proud of the fact that he moved on and he played with Tri-City and he played with Edmonton and he played with the Huskies. He was skilled—a very skilled player—and a very good player.”
The Oil Kings, and Americans both sent condolences to the Swaby family. The two clubs also linked to a gofundme page set up to assist Swaby’s wife Carla and their three boys.
As of press time, nearly $175,000 has been raised to cover funeral, ranch and education expenses.
Gofundme organizer Nicole Hoffart wrote that the donations would have a huge impact on the family heading into the holidays. She also thanked family and friends for their overwhelming support during a difficult time.
Swaby also suited up locally for the Shellbrook Elks and Kinistino Tigers, where he won a senior hockey championship in 2013-14. The Tigers released a statement on Saturday expressing condolences to Swaby’s family.
“Matt was was a key part of our Championship team in 2013-14, but more importantly he was an amazing guy and friend to all that knew him,” the statement reads. “Matt had a smile that could light up a room and a laugh that could be heard across that same room as well. To this day we still tell the stories of his shootout auction performance in no pants and covering the puck in the corner with 5 seconds left to preserve the championship win, among others. Matt leaves behind a young family and we would encourage everyone to support them.”
In addition to hockey, Swaby was also well-known on the rodeo circuit. He competed in Saddle Bronc Riding at the Calgary Stampede before moving back to the Prince Albert area to start ranching.
A celebration of life is planned for 1 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre. A private family internment will be held at a later date.
The service will be videotaped and live-streamed at grays.ca/memorial-videos/