New team honours former teammates

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Stewart's jersey retired, tournament named for Sauder

Ken Stewart and Chris Sauder both have a lasting legacy in Moose Jaw lacrosse during their time on the floor.

Saturday those legacies grew.

Not only were both player posthumously honoured by the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Lacrosse Association, but a pick-up alumni game played in the memory of the two players in the winter played a big role in getting the new Moose Jaw Chiefs senior men's team off the ground.

"That Ken Stewart game that we had at the Yara Centre really solidified that there was interest here and that we need to do something before we're too old," said Steve Michaluk who is acting as a player/coach for the Chiefs.

Before their first game, the two players were honoured in a ceremony.

Stewart's number 28 jersey was retired and a framed jersey with two pictures of Stewart was also unveiled.

Stewart was a key member of the Moose Jaw Junior Mustangs dynasty and earned a tryout with the field lacrosse national team. He won gold, silver and bronze at field nationals with the provincial team.

He still holds the records for most goals (150) assists (135) and points (285) in the history of Prairie Gold Junior Lacrosse League.

"With these accomplishments, the Moose Jaw Chiefs, along with the Moose Jaw Minor Lacrosse Association would like to announce that we're pulling all number 28 jerseys from circulation in our association and officially retiring Ken's jersey," said Derek Burns who played every game of his career from the age of 10 with Stewart.

It was also announced that the annual Moose Jaw Pee Wee lacrosse tournament will be named the Chris Sauder Memorial Tournament.

"When it came to Moose Jaw lacrosse, Chris was committed to growing the game," said former teammate Jeff Kitts in a pre-game speech. Kitts said because he was such a great ambassador for the game and because of his enthusiasm to continue to grow the sport, the MJKLA decided to name the tournament in his honour.

Members of the Sauder and Dalgarno families were presented with Chiefs jerseys with Chris' number on the back. His family was also presented with the trophy that will be given to the winning team at the Sauder tournament.

The Stewart family — including his wife Courtney and their children, Hunter, Hailey and Hannah — were also presented with Chiefs jerseys with Ken's number.

"It's a big honour for us to be here and to be recognized and for Ken to be recognized like that. We're really grateful," said Ken's father Barry Stewart who coached the majority of the players who are now on the Chiefs. "We're almost speechless. We didn't expect this, but it shows you what a classy organization it is from top to bottom. We're a family here."

The two former players died in single vehicle accidents less than six weeks apart. Sauder died at the age of 22 on Oct. 5. Stewart was 29 when he died on Nov. 15.

"It's been a tough few months now," said Stewart. "The family and friends have been amazing, but the lacrosse community — especially in Moose Jaw, but even around the province — has helped us get through this."

Burns spoke of Ken's passion for the the game and in his life.

"He wore his heart on his sleeve and he was a passionate man. He was never satisfied on the court. If he had four goals in a game, he wanted five," said Burns. "He played a leading role on our team and lead us to many of the championships you see hanging on the wall today."

As they grew from boys to men, Burns saw his friend's passions evolve as he started a family.

"I watched as this skinny, goofy kid who wanted to do nothing but play lacrosse his whole life, had a change in plans. I saw him turn down offer after offer to play lacrosse across the country. He would turn it down because he had become a family man," said Burns.

Kitts called Sauder a "fearless competitor" and said that was evident when he made his debut at the Founders Cup nationals in Kamloops competing as a 15-year-old against 21-year-old opponents.

Sauder coached box and field lacrosse as he tried to give back to the game.

A helmet decal honouring both players was also unveiled. It will be worn by all Moose Jaw lacrosse players.

The visiting Estevan Impact brought a bouquet of flowers for each of the families.

Many former players had talked about putting a senior team together, but that talk took a big step forward when they got together for the Ken Stewart Memorial Classic pick-up game. The day raised nearly $10,000 for Stewart's young family. It featured games at a number of age levels and concluded with an alumni game contested by Team Stewart and Team Sauder.

"Chris had a dream to get a senior lacrosse team started in Moose Jaw and we've been able to fulfill that dream," said Kitts.

The Chiefs lamented that they hadn't formed a team sooner.

"It's a shame we waited this long to create a senior team and that someone like Kenny, who loved the game so much, never got another chance to play with us," added Burns.

Barry Stewart smiled when asked about seeing so many of his former players on the floor again.

"It's great to see these guys out here again. It's hard not to go over to the bench," he said.

Organizations: Stewart's, Moose Jaw Kinsmen Lacrosse Association, Yara Centre Prairie Gold Junior Lacrosse League Moose Jaw Minor Lacrosse Association The Stewart

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Kamloops

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