Thursday, December 17, 2009
Grand Forks Herald Jason Stadstad Hockey Classic ‘A great thing we’re doing in his honor’ .. Courtesy of GF Herald
Grand Forks Central High School hockey players know of Jason Stadstad’s kindness and his love of hockey.
Now, they look forward to playing in the tournament named in his honor.
The Herald Jason Stadstad Hockey Classic runs today through Saturday at Purpur and Ralph Engelstad arenas.
Stadstad, a former Central hockey player, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003. The teenager fought back with relentless optimism, bringing a message of hope and courage that caught the community’s attention. Stadstad was 19 when he died in December 2006 after battling the disease for more than three years.
“The tournament is a great thing we’re doing in his honor,” said Stadstad’s cousin, Aaron Hatt, 16, a junior and hockey player at Central. “It brings back a lot of good memories. We lived three houses down from them. And there was ice between our houses. All four of us (Jason and his brothers, Jared and Justin) usually played together.”
Jared and Justin Stadstad both have played hockey for Central, coach Tony Bina said. Justin, 15, is on the junior varsity team, and Jared, 19, graduated last year.
Bina, who started coaching Central about four years ago, said Jason Stadstad was a typical “Central Knight.”
“He was definitely a leader in the community and for our team,” Bina said.
Stadstad’s presence is a constant for those who play. Hanging high above the ice in Purpur is a Knight jersey bearing the No. 19, Jason’s jersey number.
“We think about him a lot,” Bina said. “We’re excited to represent Central and play in the Stadstad tournament.”
Justin Stadstad said Jason’s passion was hockey, so it’s good that he’s remembered through events like the tournament.
“No one will ever forget about him,” he said. “It’s so hard to describe. It’s so nice to have a tournament in my brother’s name — a memory of him. I don’t even know how to explain it.”
Craig Jones, 17, also a junior and hockey player, said he went to school with Jason Stadstad when they were children, though Stadstad was a few years older.
Playing in the tournament “means a lot” to him, Jones said. “It’s nice that the tournament is named after him, to show respect for him,” he added. “He was an all-around nice guy, who was always nice to me.”
A small white sticker, of a cross with the initials “JLS” and the number “19” adorn some of the team’s helmets.
“I made them in graphic arts class,” Hatt said. “I’ve made three so far, but people see them and they want to have one, too.”
Hatt said he believes Jason will be watching over the team as they play.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a little extra help from him,” he said with a smile. “Hopefully, we can win it for him.”