In the early hours of Thursday morning, as I hit schedule on a prospect post written entirely about Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss, I got a strange message from a friend pointing me to news articles about this very player. The articles weren’t full of recaps of his play, his thoughts on lower body injuries or even coaching comments. Instead the articles highlighted a bizarre story of a man who jumped from a bridge in Riga, Latvia while in a seemingly unrelated story, Pelss was identified as a missing person in the same area. Both reports were in their infant stages, some connected the dots prematurely. Fearing the worst, the family publicly made statements of hope claiming that he was likely alive, just missing. The Oilers themselves were a bit hesitant to make a grand statement without knowing the exact facts. They said:
The Edmonton Oilers organization, including the Edmonton Oil Kings, Oklahoma City Barons and affiliate Stockton Thunder, is aware of the reports regarding Kristians Pelss going missing while visiting Riga, Latvia, this week. There has been contradictory information reported, at times, and we are trying to confirm the facts. Once we are able to do that, we will be able to offer further comment. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Pelss family. Kristians spent two years with the Oil Kings before beginning his pro career in the Oilers system, splitting last season between the Barons and the Thunder.
As the hours have now turned into days, it is now widely known that Kristians Pelss, age 20, has passed away.
I didn’t know Kristians personally, but I did shake his hand, look him in the eye, and thank him for entertaining on the ice so well. That’s enough for me to be devastated, confused, and heartbroken about this news. Truthfully, in many ways there are fans that watched him play that are experiencing the same depth of hurt that I am, some maybe more than others. When a piece of the hockey family and community is suddenly missing, it leaves an emotional and physical hole. This is one of those instances.
In the world of sports writing, eulogies for teams ending their season are written as tongue in cheek dark comedy pieces, and are typically worth your time as they allow some closure. In real life, however, eulogies for people never fully allow for closure. They don’t highlight the ups and downs of a season, but rather a life. They don’t poke fun at struggle, but rather embrace it in tragedy. They don’t get an ending period followed by a three month off season and a capital letter when training camp opens. Instead they are statements grander than this, they are celebrations of life much greater than a profession. For as tragic as the passing of Kristians might be, the goal moving forward has to be about celebration of life, of passion, of a job well done, of a life stopped way too short.
I’ve officiated my share of funerals (as a full time minister), and someone once asked me if they ever all just feel like the same thing, as if there were a script for how to comfort loved ones in their darkest hours. My answer is this – no two lives are exactly the same, thus how we remember, cope, grieve, and recover is never a carbon copy of one another. We are far too diverse a world to celebrate each passing the same way. I suppose this is how we find just a small bit of hope when we come to the moment of realizing we may never have another minute with the ones we love.
I can only imagine the sorrow that Kristians family is experiencing at this moment. Most who’ve lost a loved one can empathize to some degree. He was just so young, so full of life, so focused, so determined that it makes the circumstances hurt in ways that we as human beings can’t fully process. Hang in their Pelss family and friends, remember the core of Kristians life, remember it fondly.
The post that I had originally scheduled about Kristians will not appear on this site because remembering his life is much more robust than just remembering his hockey career, but I’ll pull one of the paragraphs from that prospect report because it reads as bittersweet:
Pelss is a player that I find impossible to not cheer for. The Latvian Lamenter has the potential to be a headstrong winger. Gifted with a great smile, contagious spirit, and the type of hockey game that people crave – he’s my underdog in 2013.
Kristians, your time was brief, but your impression will be felt much longer. We’ll never forget the one season you gave us in OKC. You’re already missed.