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'Everyone is devastated': Hockey community mourns loss of young leader

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The hockey community in Chatham-Kent and beyond is mourning the sudden death of a player caught in a highway crash this week in London.

Craig Spence, a 22-year-old man from Chatham, has been identified by some of those closest to him as the victim in a fatal crash on Highway 401 on Tuesday afternoon.

“Everyone is devastated,” said Bob Price, the general manager of the Blenheim Blades. “There’s nothing but sorrow.”

Spence was the captain of the Blades after playing four seasons along the blue line for the Chatham Maroons and was a draft pick of the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League.

It was around 3 p.m. on Tuesday when Ontario Provincial Police report officers were called to a collision between a transport truck and a pick-up truck in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 near Colonel Talbot Road. OPP report the crash resulted in the ejection of the driver from the passenger vehicle.

The driver of the pick-up truck was pronounced dead at the scene.

The sudden and violent death has been met with an outpouring grief and condolences.

“Players really respected him,” said Price. “They’re all suffering right now along with his parents and we feel for them.”

The Blenheim Blades organization took to social media with a statement in honour of Spence which included the message:

“To the Blades family, he was Spence, easy with a smile, always willing to step up if help was needed, he was a dedicated teammate, brother and a friend to all of us in the Blades family.”

“Forever #10 Our Captain.”

The Chatham Maroons also issued a statement today:

“Craig was more than just a stellar athlete on the ice; he embodied the essence of what it meant to be a genuine and wonderful human being. #10 Forever a Maroon. Craig Spence will live on in our hearts.”

Condolences have also poured in from the OHL and other teams that competed against Spence, Including the Amherstburg Admirals and Essex 73’s, in the wake of the tragedy.

A GoFundMe page has been launched meant to help support the family with funeral expenses.

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