Our Association is looking back at a remarkable experience our West Fargo Squirt A White team and families were gifted to be a small part of at the Coon Rapids Cardinal Clash Hockey Tournament, February 1st-3rd.
The tournament from the start was one the WF families attending agreed other teams from our association should experience. The team started the weekend playing indoors, but part of the tournament was played on the attached outdoor rink. Glass, scoreboard, temperature-maintained ice, bleachers…it had it all. The boys went to work and won their outdoor game, which also happened to be the semi-final.
This is where the experience changed and gave everyone there a gentle, yet strong reminder of what really matters, as well as just how incredible the hockey community is. As the WF team was leaving, the tournament director from Coon Rapids approached one of our managers. He offered his congrats on making the championship game…WF was going to play the host team, Coon Rapids. Then, he asked if perhaps the WF coaches would be willing to allow our players to wear a sticker on their helmets.
He explained that there was a young man named Casey Pack. He was diagnosed with cancer at 16 years old in 2016 and he played hockey until his body needed to focus on the fight of his life. However, he has other siblings who continue to play for the Cardinals of Coon Rapids. He further stated Casey wasn’t well. It was a turn no one anticipated would happen so fast. In fact, Casey had just stayed in West Fargo the weekend before supporting his brother who played in Fargo’s Woodchipper tournament. Sadly, his condition drastically changed over the week and his time here on earth was very limited. The sticker was to honor and show support for Casey and his family. Our manager quickly said "Absolutely, our players will wear the stickers in the championship game" and took the yellow cancer ribbon decals with the words “Team Casey” on them and headed back to the hotel.
Once there, the managers spoke with the rest of the parents and told them about Casey. They called the hockey director, Jason Gregoire, who quickly gave his blessing to wear the stickers as well as the go ahead to do something further to show WFHA’s support. It was decided that the team would gift a WF jersey with the words, “Team Casey” embroidered on it to the Coon Rapids squirt team before the game. After calling around to every sports, screen-printing, and embroidery business within the area, the parents soon realized because it was mid-evening on a Saturday, there would be no business that could accommodate getting the jersey done by the following day’s championship game. Undeterred, a few parents headed to Michaels craft store and bought the letters that they then embroidered onto the jersey at the hotel.
The following morning we were told that the Pack family was aware of what we were going to do to show our support for Casey and the rest of their family. The manager for the Coon Rapids Squirt team met our managers at the rink and shared that Casey’s brother, Dylan, who plays for their Bantam A team, was coming to the game and would be accepting the jersey from our coaches.
Many families from both teams met and interacted ahead of the Championship game, sharing hugs and equally exchanged messages of gratitude. As the warmup’s began, the love and support CRHA had for Casey and his family was wholly evident, with signs all around and players wearing jerseys with Casey or his brother’s number on them.
The respective teams were announced and the game was about to begin. But not before a moment of silence was held for Casey. It was immediately following this that the announcer had one of our coaches come forward to give Casey’s brother, Dylan, the jersey. Those present stated that there was barely a dry eye in the rink. Later, the WF families were told a parent from the Coon Rapids team live videoed the presentation for Casey and his parents and that the parents said they were watching and that Casey’s Mom said, “He is listening”.
Coon Rapids Cardinals, you keep saying thank you to our program. You embraced our team and allowed our young men to be part of a lesson so much bigger than any game could ever teach. The families and players there from our program were honored you asked and allowed them to add support to Casey and his family.
Casey Pack…within two short days we learned that your heart, your spirit and your fight was FAR bigger than the cancer that took you. We heard from friends of your family within the CRHA of your grace and strength until the end. You are 18. But we learned that you lived with a presence and wisdom of a man well beyond your years.
Dylan, our players watched you accept the jersey in honor of your brother. They saw your strength and your heart. You left your mark on our boys in the most positive way, on the most difficult day of your life. It moved us all.
We are so sorry.
Ultimately, the families and players of our Squirt A White team wanted the Pack family to feel the thoughts and prayers from our Association. Our Squirt A White families are so grateful that the members of the team learned a life lesson that extended far beyond the confines of an ice sheet. Kindness. Sportsmanship. Supporting and honoring someone in the fight of their life.
In that short moment, each player of our team gained far more than we gave. And for that, we will always remember Casey Pack. Our families will say his name, try our best to instill in our children the strength and grace of Casey’s heart, and honor his fight. Thank you Coon Rapids HA. Our thoughts continue to be with you and we will always be huge fans of your teams. Thank you, Dylan and the rest of the amazing Pack family.
But mostly…thank you, Casey.