Opening night for the Oklahoma City Barons is always exciting and thrilling – it gives those of us who have waited all summer for hockey a chance to view the new team, the new players and also be there to witness the opening of a brand new season.
It was also a night to honor Kristians Pelss who tragically died earlier in the summer, and that did happen in the form of a frozen image on the jumbotron accompanied by a moment of silence. I am told that was the organization’s wishes – and I respect that – however, I have to wonder if they gave any thought to the fans. The team – and all that encompasses, the coaches, teammates, and organization – have had time to share their grief and loss together, as a group, through a series of training camps this summer, but last night was the first opportunity for the fans in Oklahoma City to actually pay tribute to Kristians Pelss. This was our first opportunity to honor and celebrate his all too short life and a moment of silence fell far too short.
OKC fans might not have known Kristians personally like his teammates, but we were nonetheless tremendously devastated and heartbroken by the news of his death. We cheered most wholeheartedly for this young man who played with such a sparkle in his eyes. We chatted with him briefly during post-game skates as he posed for photos and signed autographs, smiling, joking and laughing. We shook his hand and admired this young man who came to North America all the way from Latvia to play hockey. We might not have held a personal friendship with him, but we held such heartfelt goodwill for him. That is how I wish to celebrate Kristians’ life — remembering that sparkle in his eye, his laughter and jokes, and above all his fiery enthusiasm for the game of hockey.