Raymond Sawada, firefighter and former NHL player from Richmond, dead at 38

Apr 12 2023, 6:14 pm

Former NHL hockey player Raymond Sawada has died at the age of 38.

The Richmond native passed away Monday night “while playing the game he loved,” according to a GoFundMe set up to support his family. Sawada leaves behind his wife Nicole, as well as two daughters — nine-year-old Victoria and six-year-old Charlotte.

The community has rallied behind the GoFundMe, raising over $200,000 in less than 24 hours — more than four times the $50,000 goal.

“Ray was such a bright light in the lives he touched,” reads the fundraising page, organized by Brianne Sameshima. “He enjoyed traveling with Nicole, the girls, and family and friends. He was a talented hockey player and a dedicated coach for his girls. Ray was passionately driven and motivated in everything he did, and the surrounding community will be left with a void.”

Sawada played junior hockey for the Nanaimo Clippers in 2003-04, before playing four seasons with Cornell University. He was a second-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars in 2004, and went on to play eight years of pro hockey, mostly in the AHL. Sawada appeared in 11 games with Dallas and scored his first NHL goal in the 2008-09 season. He also got a chance to play in front of family and friends in a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in 2009-10.

Sawada retired from pro hockey in 2015, following two seasons in Europe. He became a firefighter with the City of Burnaby in 2017.

“Heart breaking news,” said former Canucks defenceman and Richmond native Troy Stecher. “Ray was an idol for a lot of Richmond Minor players growing up. Not only was Ray a successful hockey player, he was a community hero and local firefighter. Thoughts and prayers to his family.”

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