British Columbia

Langley hockey team honours teen killed in car crash in ceremony retiring his number

On what would’ve been Ronin Sharma’s 17th birthday, the aspiring professional hockey player was commemorated by family and teammates in a ceremony that saw his jersey number retired.

"As a hockey player, he was great. And as a team member, he is even greater."

Ronin Sharma's jersey, number 25, was raised to the rafters during a tribute to the late junior hockey player. Sharma's family was also presented with the last jersey he wore. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

On what would've been Ronin Sharma's 17th birthday, the aspiring professional hockey player was commemorated by family and teammates in a ceremony that saw his jersey number retired. 

"Ronin's going to be a Rivermen for life," said Mike Thompson, assistant coach for the Langley Rivermen. 

Together with family and friends, the team paid tribute to Sharma at the George Preston Arena in Langley, B.C., before their home opener on Friday. 

Sharma was killed alongside fellow junior hockey players Parker Magnuson and Caleb Reimer when the car they were travelling in crashed into a tree in the Fraser Heights neighbourhood of Surrey on Aug. 21.

Sharma's jersey, number 25, was raised to the rafters following an emotional video tribute. 

"Ronin was like a son to me. And that's a really big honour to get your jersey retired. So I think the family is really proud of Ronin for that," said Tarsem Nath, Sharma's uncle.

"As sad as it is to lose him, there is some peace with us of having this night for him."

Nath said it was a hard day for the family, but support from the team helped.

"Ronin touched a lot of people," Nath said. "And when you come here and look around, it shows."

'He was going to be a pro hockey player'

Players bore Sharma's name on their jerseys for Friday's game and will be wearing Sharma's initials, R.S., on their helmets for the rest of the season. 

"As a hockey player, he was great. And as a team member, he is even greater," said Thompson.

"I can't count how many guys came up to me and said, he came to my side when I wasn't feeling great and picked me up. That was Sharms, he was just a great kid."

Thompson said Sharma had the "it factor" that could have taken him all the way to the professional league.

"He was going to be a pro hockey player," he said. "He could score. He worked hard. He tried to be the best at everything he could, everyday."

For Sharma's family, the loss of their family member is still a painful wound, but Nath said he knows his nephew would want them to celebrate his life.

"I'm just going to try to think about all the good times," Nath said as he held back tears.

"[We're going to] do what Ronin would've wanted us to do … just celebrate him and be happy for him, what he accomplished at such a young age."

With files from Gian Paolo Mendoza

now