The Kamloops Storm is in shock after a former player was killed in a car accident in Idaho on Tuesday.
Taylor Ward, a forward with the KIJHL team in 2012-13, was killed in a two-vehicle crash Tuesday evening near Rockford, Idaho. Ward, 19, was less than two months into a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There were conflicting early reports about whether Ward had died, but Storm owner and general manager Barry Dewar said that he received a text message from Ward's father on Wednesday confirming the bad news.
"It's sad. He was a good guy and a good teammate," Dewar said. "He will be sorely missed."
Ward, from Vacaville, Calif., came to the Storm after trying out for the BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings. He appeared in 25 games with Kamloops, scoring five goals and assisting on nine others. He last played on Dec. 14, after which he went home to California to begin training for his church mission.
"He wanted to go home so he could go on his mission," Dewar said. "We totally supported him in that."
Police in Idaho said Ward was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his mission companion, John Floyd, who apparently failed to yield at a stop sign and was T-boned by a pickup truck. All three people were wearing seatbelts. Both the driver of the truck and Floyd escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police originally announced that Ward had died, but later said that he was in "extremely critical condition" and on life support.
Dewar said he texted Ward's father upon hearing the news, and got a response Wednesday.
"Every member of the church feels the loss of a missionary," read a statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We are deeply saddened, and share with his family, friends and fellow missionaries in their grief. We extend to them our love, our prayers and our deepest sympathy."
The Storm played host to the 100 Mile House Wranglers last night, before which the teams held a moment of silence for Ward.
"All the guys are upset," Dewar said. "It's awful when a young man loses his life."
During his time in Kamloops, Ward billeted with Tracey Louvros, the team's trainer.
There are at least 10 players on the Storm's current roster who played with Ward last season, but none was closer to him than Spencer Schoech, a 20-year-old defenceman from Dublin, Calif.
Schoech, who started last season with the Storm but ended up with the Spruce Kings, recently re-signed with the Storm. He and Ward had spent some time with the midget Tri-Valley Blue Devils in California, and came to the Storm together.
"(Schoech) was shocked to hear," Dewar said. "They were close. . . . He's upset, but he wanted to play (last night)."
Ward is survived by his parents, Trevor and Diedre, brother Brandon and sister Krista. The family was en route to Idaho on Wednesday.