The bond between Spencer Schoech and Taylor Ward was formed through hockey, but it went a lot further than that.
Ward, 19, died Wednesday after he was involved in a two-vehicle accident near Rockford, Idaho, on Tuesday evening. He was less than two months into a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Schoech and Ward are from the same area of California, and they played two seasons of midget hockey together with the Tri-Valley Blue Devils, winning state championships in both. They ended up in Kamloops last season, playing for the junior B Storm, with Schoech on defence and Ward up front.
They both left the team in December, which was the last time Schoech would see Ward. Schoech moved to Prince George to play for the BCHL's Spruce Kings, with whom he would finish the season. Ward stayed in Kamloops for two more weeks, then moved home to California before Christmas to begin planning for his mission, which began in July.
"He didn't live close to me, but once you're a teammate of someone and you win two state championships together, you become brothers," Schoech said Thursday, after the Storm practised at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre. "I won two state championships with him, I played on his team for two years and half a year here, and we had a really close relationship."
When he arrived in Kamloops, Ward was quiet, mostly keeping to himself. But Schoech said as time wore on, he came out of his shell.
"He was quiet in the locker-room, and you would have to go up to him and say hi," Schoech said. "As the year went on, he became a little more outspoken and said some more. But he was definitely the type of guy you didn't hear a lot."
Members of the LDS church are expected to serve missions when they turn 19, and the missions last two years. Former Kamloops Blazers defenceman Tyler Hansen left the team this offseason to go on his mission, which he currently is serving in Argentina.
Schoech said Ward's life was the church, which is why it wasn't surprising when he announced that he was leaving the Storm to go on his mission.
"He liked hockey, but he always wanted to pursue a mission," Schoech said. "I thought he would stick with hockey a little longer, but that's what he wanted to do."
But Ward did love hockey.
Schoech, 20, is a year older than Ward, but the pair played together with the Blue Devils, and decided to try to further their careers in Canada together. They started with a tryout with the Spruce Kings and, after being released, decided to play with the Storm.
Schoech is close with Taylor's parents, Trevor and Diedre, and knows his brother Brandon and sister Krista. Brandon is a goaltender with the Blue Devils program, and Schoech spent part of the summer training with him.
"They're great people," Schoech said. "I actually travelled with them when I first went to Prince George (in 2012). I went with him and his dad. They're great people - it's sad to see (Taylor) go."
Schoech is back with the Storm, which held a moment of silence before its Wednesday exhibition game with the 100 Mile House Wranglers.
"The moment of silence really hit me and some of the other guys I talked to," Schoech said. "It's tough to see a guy go so young.
"The hockey gods must have needed a goal-scorer," he added, "so they asked Taylor to go up."
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A family friend is raising money online to cover travel and funeral expenses for the Ward family.
As of Thursday afternoon, nearly $6,000 had been raised on www.gofundme.com, with the goal currently set at $7,000.
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The Storm is at home to the Chase Heat tonight, 7 o'clock, at the Sport Centre. Kamloops will play in Chase on Sunday, 6 p.m., and in 100 Mile House on Wednesday.