Hockey parents tend to have quite a few quasi-children, the friends of their sons and daughters who become kin.
Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk has long had a seat at the Zarys’ table.
Kyrell, 19, was critically injured in a snowboarding accident on Friday at a ski hill in the Saskatoon area.
“It feels a little too close to handle when it’s one of your son’s buddies,” said Kathleen Zary, who was doing her best to stave off emotion during the phone call with KTW.
“It’s just a shock for the family to have this happen and to know that you’ve got an uphill climb ahead of you, but if there is a family that is going to weather the storm, it’s going to be this family.”
Connor Zary and Kyrell both toil for the Blazers in the Western Hockey League.
Kyrell’s parents, Bobby and Lori, have developed strong relationships with Connor’s parents, Scott and Kathleen, through hockey, as the two have been teammates on and off since age seven.
The families have been in regular contact since the life-changing accident occurred.
Kathleen said it is up to the Sopotyks to reveal the details of Kyrell’s condition, but noted he is alert in hospital. He has been paralyzed, according to the GoFundMe page Kathleen created on Sunday.
The page was established with a goal of raising $10,000 to help with any possible renovations needed at the Sopotyk home, health-care costs and any additional support the family may require.
More than $84,000 was collected within 17 hours, and the fund had eclipsed $100,000 as of noon on Monday.
“I know that, as a mom, my first priority would be to look after my child, and I wouldn’t be thinking of going to work or where my next paycheque is coming from,” Kathleen said. “I wouldn’t want any of that on my shoulders. So to see the overwhelming support has been an amazing blessing for the family. I know they are eternally grateful for everybody’s help.”
Connor, from Saskatoon, and Kyrell, from nearby Aberdeen, Sask., were both selected by the Blazers in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
“My best friend Kyrell was in an accident over the weekend and is currently in hospital,” Connor, the Calgary Flames’ prospect, tweeted on Sunday. “He is the best guy I know and him and his family would do anything for anyone. Please donate if possible! Love you brother stay strong.”
The Zarys became aware of the accident on Saturday morning.
“We just all sat at home and had a cry and hoped for the best,” Kathleen said.
Connor is in Calgary, skating with fellow Flames’ prospects ahead of the American Hockey League campaign.
“It may be a little hard to be on his own in a hotel room, but he’s doing all right,” Kathleen said.
“It’s hitting him hard. We’re talking with him every night, just making sure he stays OK, but he’s got a good head on his shoulders, just like Ky. Him and Ky have been talking back and forth, as well. Connor is there as support to be with his good buddy, to make sure he knows he cares and he’s thinking about him.”
The Blazers issued a statement on Sunday.
“We are devastated at the news of Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk,” the statement reads. “Kyrell suffered a life-altering injury this weekend. He is a tremendous young man and an exemplary representative of our hockey club. The Blazer family is behind Kyrell and the Sopotyks. At this time, we will respect the privacy of his family.”
Kathleen, overwhelmed with media requests, is not surprised to see people getting behind the Sopotyks, but was moved to tears when speaking about the public’s generousity.
“It’s amazing,” Kathleen said. “I guess, coming from Saskatchewan, you know how supportive people are of each other and how much they care, especially the hockey community.
“Whether it’s Saskatchewan or Kamloops, you know the hockey community is always going to get behind of one their players.”