Former NHL player and Richmond resident Ray Sawada died suddenly at age 38 Monday evening (April 10) while playing at a local rink.
The young husband and father of two had just finished having Easter dinner with his family and celebrating his nine-year-old daughter’s birthday when he collapsed at a recreational hockey game, according to family friend Doug Paterson.
Paterson, who is the president of the Richmond Sockeyes where Sawada got his start in hockey, says the 38-year-old keeled over on a bench at the Richmond Ice Centre from an apparent heart attack. A number of first responders on his team attempted to revive him with a defibrillator until paramedics arrived, but couldn’t bring Sawada back, Paterson says.
“I just almost get sick thinking of it. It’s just so sad and so, so unfortunate.”“
Paterson describes Sawada as a people person and family man.
He was born in Richmond and played with the Sockeyes from 2001 to 2003, before moving into professional leagues and playing for the Dallas Stars.
In 2017, Sawada retired from hockey and took up a job as a firefighter with the City of Burnaby.
“Ray has left a strong and positive mark on each of us in the department, and we are very thankful for the time we had with him,” Fire Chief Chris Bowcock said in a statement.
Sawada kept his love for the game alive by playing for fun locally and coaching his nine- and six-year-old daughters’ team, the Richmond Ravens. In a post to social media, the Ravens said Sawada will be remembered for “his bright smile, kind heart and dedication.”
“He was not only a gifted hockey player, but a devoted coach, who could be seen selflessly passing on his love and passion for the game to each of the girls he was on the ice with,” they wrote in a post to social media. “We will miss Ray more than words can express…”
The Dallas Stars also posted their condolences.
“Our love goes out to his family, friends, and all the people he impacted in hockey and as a firefighter in his community,” the team said in a tweet.
It is with heavy hearts we mourn the passing of former Stars player, Raymond Sawada.
Our love goes out to his family, friends, and all the people he impacted in hockey and as a firefighter in his community. 💚 pic.twitter.com/x2vuOinbJ4
— x – Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) April 12, 2023
A fundraiser started for Sawada’s wife and daughters says his passing will “leave a sad mark on their hearts and make for a long road ahead.”
“Ray was passionately driven and motivated in everything he did, and the surrounding community will be left with a void.”
The Richmond Sockeyes plan to retire Sawada’s jersey, number 27.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said Sawada collapsed while on the ice. It has since been corrected to say he collapsed on the bench.