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Nobody would have blamed Emily Cave if she withdrew from the hockey world and asked all the normal introspective questions after a crushingly sad event.
After all, the young woman had suffered tragically while watching her 25-year-old NHL player husband Colby die suddenly from a sudden brain bleed almost two years ago at the height of the COVID pandemic. She was never able to properly say goodbye to a husband she’d just begun the rest of her life with and plans for a family of their own and a lifetime of love together were gone in a matter of hours.
Coming face-to-face with that kind of mortality and loss at such a young age is impossible to grasp, so nobody could have expected what would happen next. Instead of asking “why her?”, Emily threw herself into working tirelessly to keep the memory of her husband Colby alive, whether it was the Colby Cave Memorial Fund in Edmonton with the Oilers or traveling around the NHL world to check in on her late husband’s hockey friends.
Colby Cave was a kind-hearted, generous soul, who was both humble and hard-working and showed exactly the kind of appreciation one hopes to see from a hockey player after making it to the highest levels of the sport. And Emily is keeping Colby’s giving spirit alive with the way she’s touching those that impacted her husband during his five-year pro hockey career prior to his passing almost two years ago.
Emily attended the Oilers/Boston Bruins game in Boston earlier this season when Colby’s two NHL teams played against each other and utilized that moment to keep his memory alive while raising awareness for Colby’s Kids, a series of community programs with an emphasis on mental health initiatives via CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health and providing access to sports for underprivileged children via the former Edmonton Oilers 2nd Shift.
It was something Emily spoke eloquently and emotionally about while she was in Boston.
“He would be so humble about it and say ‘Guys, I don’t need all of this’, but he would be so proud,” said Emily Cave, during a TV interview with Sportsnet in Edmonton's Gene Principe during the Bruins/Oilers game. “These two teams are truly my hockey families and keep me going every day, so he would be really honored. I was left with this torch to continue his legacy, but there are a lot of people helping me to carry this torch when it gets hard on tough days.
“He’s got a front row view in heaven with his big famous smile on his face. I was so proud of him watching him play his first NHL game [at TD Garden] and I’m a trillion times prouder now, which I never thought would be possible.”
It was an emotional week back in November for Emily and for the Boston Bruins players that clearly loved Colby like a kid brother.
Emily continued to pay visits to others, though, and pay forward the message of keeping Colby’s memory alive. She went to a Providence Bruins game that same weekend where one of Colby’s best hockey friends, P-Bruins winger Zach Senyshyn, ripped off his first career hat trick in pro hockey and shared an emotional moment with Colby’s widow afterward.
Then just this past week, another former Providence Bruins teammate Ryan Donato scored a game-tying goal and a shootout winner for the Seattle Kraken. Afterward it was learned that Donato had been wearing one of Colby’s game ties that Emily had given him at the beginning of the season to honor his fallen teammate, and that Emily was actually in the audience watching the Blackhawks/Kraken while Donato was engaged in these heroics.
So what to make of all of this?
First off, these are not coincidences. It’s abundantly clear that Colby is looking down and watching his family and friends with a good-natured, joyful smile on his face as they honor his legacy of humble kindness and simple goodness that anyone around him recognized in the humble kid from Saskatchewan while he was still with us.
Emily is accomplishing everything she sought out to do in making sure everybody remembers Colby Cave.
Secondly, the mark of a professional athlete, or any person for that matter, isn’t the awards they've won, or the numbers posted, or even the championships won over a career. It’s instead the lives that they touched while they were on this Earth, and the vibrancy of Cave’s memory is a tribute to an outstanding young man that lived so well before being taken from us all way too soon.