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Parents of junior hockey player killed in crash celebrate as team captures provincial championship

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Days after capturing their second provincial championship in three years, the captain of an Essex County junior hockey team says his fellow players were playing for something "bigger than the team" this year.

On Friday, the Lakeshore Canadiens defeated the Clarington Eagles in the finals of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs.

For the local Habs, winning the Schmalz Cup is a dream come true — but their season began as a nightmare after they learned one of their newest teammates had died.

This past October, a crash between an SUV and tractor trailer on County Road 42, West of Patillo Road, claimed the life of 20-year-old Sylvain Lessard.Sylvain Lessard. (Source: Lakeshore Canadiens)

Lessard had graduated from L'Essor Catholic Secondary School in 2021. He had played under the PJHL as a member of the Wheatley Sharks, before joining Lakeshore about three weeks prior to his death.

"We lost a brother and a friend," said Lakeshore Canadiens team captain Marco Sladoje.

But what powered the Canadiens to press forward, after receiving such devastating news so early into the start of this season, was the continued support of Lessard's parents.

According to Sladoje, they attended every single Lakeshore Canadiens playoff game — whether it was played at home or on the road.

'They're making the drives out to Clarington or New Hamburg. When you're out for warmups and you see them there and the support they have for you and the team, it just gives you that little extra edge to go and play," said Sladoje.

 

When the Lakeshore Canadiens raised the Schmalz Cup after their final game against the Clarington Eagles, the first people who held the trophy afterward were Lessard's mother and father.

"We played for [Sylvain's] memory and his parents were a part of it. They will always be a part of it. So hopefully we put a little bit of a smile on their face in this tragic scenario," said Lakeshore Canadiens general manager Mike Seguin.

Sladoje said the death of Lessard has resulted in the rest of the team building a "brotherhood" with one another that will last forever.

"That camaraderie and that feeling of being part of a family was what drove us over the edge and allowed us to continue playing and win a championship at the end of the day," said Sladoje.

"When his parents were able to come on the ice and lift that trophy, it was truly something special. It just attests to how much they mean to us and how much we mean to them as well."

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