Saturday night I learned of the tragic passing of one of the great lights in the hockey world.
Taylor Ward, 19, from Vacaville, Calif., was injured in a car accident near Pocatello, Idaho. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was placed on life support. He was pronounced dead on Wednesday night.
I will always remember Taylor as the best teammate I’ve ever had. We played together in the Vacaville Adult Hockey League along with his father, Trevor, and his younger brother, Brandon. What set Taylor apart from everyone else was his attitude.
Adult hockey has plenty of people who couldn’t care less about their teammates or the other team. They want to score goals and win games and to hell with the feelings of everyone else. The sad truth for many is that there is a reason we’re in adult hockey. Our skills are not at a level where we can have an attitude.
Taylor had every right to be that player, but even as teenager playing in a league with 30 and 40-somethings (and older) he understood that the game should be fun for everyone on the ice. He went out of his way to make it fun.
He never tried to score 100 goals. He would rather set up a teammate and see the joy on his or her face when they scored. There were a few players, like me during the few seasons we played against each other, that he felt no shame in challenging 1-on-1, but he never took that as an opportunity to embarrass or humiliate. Sometimes he’d even skate up to you after the play and tell you what to do to prevent that from happening.
Taylor always had the brightest smile at the rink. He enjoyed being there and being around his friends and teammates. He loved the game of hockey as much as any person I’ve ever met. But I’ve learned that he loved something else even more.
Taylor was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This quote appeared on another blog:
“I left home for the first time in my life and even went to a different country to try to fulfill my dream of going and playing in the NHL as a pro. But while I was there The Lord told me that I needed to go back home and go on a mission even though it was only half way through the season. Now a lot of people especially my teammates and coaches from past teams have asked why I would give up on that dream especially when I had a good shot of making it. My answer is because the Lord has called me to do this marvelous work and I dare not miss this glorious opportunity that will allow me to come closer to god and allow others to come closer to him as well.” -Elder Taylor Ward
Taylor wasn’t afraid to give up his dreams to serve others. He wasn’t afraid to listen to that still, small voice calling him to something greater than himself.
In today’s western culture there are so few shining lights who stand out. Taylor was one of them. He was always happy with what he had. He was always willing to work hard to improve himself, and he used his talents to make everyone around him better.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Ward family, and with all who knew Taylor. He will be sorely missed.