Nfld. & Labrador

North Carolina hockey tournament honours N.L goaltender

Stephen Russell, a hockey player born in Grand Falls-Windsor, will be remembered in North Carolina Friday night during an annual hockey tournament named in his honour.
Stephen Russell, who passed away in 2009, is remembered as a kind young man who liked to help others. (Submitted by Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament)

A hockey player born in Grand Falls-Windsor will be remembered in North Carolina Friday night, during an annual hockey tournament named after him.

Stephen Russell left a lasting legacy in American college hockey after his death. We talk his mother, Kelly Buckley, about an annual tournament held in his honour. 7:21

Stephen Russell was a hockey player who passed away while he was a member of the North Carolina State hockey team. 

We call it Stephen's ripple, so we're going to continue spreading Stephen's ripple.- Kelly Buckley

The Atlantic Coast Conference Hockey League open their season kickoff event Friday night: the Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament. 

Stephen's mother, Kelly Buckley, fondly remembers her goaltender son as someone who "marched to his own drummer, that's for sure."

"But he was incredibly kind. He was a quiet boy who just really liked to help others. His friends said that he kind of stood at the periphery of a crowd to see who he could help," she told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show.

The banner with Stephen Russell's name and number hangs over the tournament. (Submitted by Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament)

"He was always bringing home stray people when he was alive from university for weekends so they could eat our food and have a good time."

His mother said he was just somebody who loved life and appreciated it and was passionate about the game of hockey.

Russell drowned on July 4, 2009, while swimming with his friends. 

'Stephen's ripple'

While his mother said it certainly did change her life completely, she and Stephen's family decided to celebrate the person that he was and the qualities he had of helping others, living life to the fullest and loving hockey.

"We call it Stephen's ripple, so we're going to continue spreading Stephen's ripple," she said.

Buckley said it left her speechless when she was approached by North Carolina State and learned that not only did they want to retire his jersey, but they also wanted to rename an existing hockey tournament after him.

"I didn't anticipate that at all. and it was after he passed away that I found out what an impact he had made on the boys that he had played with, and the people at NC State."

"There's really no words for it when people approach you and say, 'You know what? We think your kid is really special and we want to celebrate him in this way.' It just filled my heart"

Jersey was retired

Buckley calls the annual tournament a "tremendous gift."

"There's a huge banner hanging there with Stephen's name and number where they retired his jersey. And I look around and I see all the players. Certainly some mixed emotions and the weekend never goes without a few tears."

She said she's incredibly thankful for how the school, the league and the players show up. 

"They celebrate the game of hockey and they celebrate my boy."

The tournament — with close to 400 hockey players — continues until Oct. 11.

Stephen Russell, was a goaltender who marched to a different drummer. (Submitted by Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament)

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