Colby Cave’s sudden and untimely death on April 11, 2020, was a gut punch to the hockey community and the Edmonton Oilers. The 25-year-old had emergency surgery on April 7 after suffering a brain bleed and was then placed in a medically induced coma from which he did not recover.
Vehicles lined up for 15 kilometers along the highway near his hometown of Battleford, Saskatchewan, in tribute. Thousands of messages flooded social media, and an Oilers fan launched an online petition to have Cave on the cover of EA Sports NHL 21.
The Oilers have ensured Cave’s legacy and memory will be honoured through the Colby Cave Memorial Fund that will raise funds for community programs supporting mental health initiatives as well as providing access to sports for underprivileged children.
Who Was Colby Cave?
I suspect there will be a special spot in Edmonton’s Rogers Place that will promote the Memorial Fund. I imagine there will be a young fan, likely wearing a McDavid or Draisaitl jersey, who will turn to their Mom or Dad and say, “Who’s Colby Cave?”
This parent got off easy when they passed the Wayne Gretzky statue out front, and their little Oilers fan asked, “Who’s he?”
This parent won’t be able to say that Cave was the player who won a bunch of Stanley Cups, or trophies or holds any NHL records.
You won’t find stats and championships in this display in the concourse. The young man only played 67 games in the NHL over four seasons. In 44 games with the Oilers and 23 games with the Boston Bruins, Cave had 9 points, but there was something special about Cave, or Caver as his teammates called him, that doesn’t show up in the stats, but it did for others.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid took to Instagram to talk about his admiration for Cave.
Wayne Gretzky also tweeted, “He was a wonderful hockey player with a bright future, but an even better person.”
“Colby was a respected and admired teammate, family member and friend to so many across the hockey community and community at large,” said Oilers Chairman, Bob Nicholson in a news release announcing the fund.
There are the unsung heroes in sports, the athletes who work hard, play hard and do whatever it takes for their team and everyone around them to be successful. That was Colby Cave.
Cave Climbed the Hockey Ladder
He grew up as a stand-out player for his hometown Battlefords Stars in the Saskatchewan AAA Hockey league. Cave was drafted by Kootenay Ice but returned to his home province when he was traded to the Swift Current Broncos. Despite solid seasons and being named captain, he was overlooked at the NHL Entry Draft.
The next season, he racked up 75 points for the Broncos and caught the eye of the Bruins, who had drafted Cave’s teammate, Jake DeBrusk. Boston gave Cave a shot with their AHL affiliate, Providence Bruins. The Oilers claimed him off of waivers in January of 2019.
He earned respect around the league after a fight with Martin Pospisil. The tussle was even until Cave landed a punch that knocked Pospisil out. Cave immediately stopped out of concern, and didn’t take his eyes off of Pospisil while he was escorted to the penalty box. Pospisil shared a text message from Cave via Twitter the next day:
That text offers a small glimpse at the type of person Cave was — respectful and caring. It shows us why so many players he played with and against offered condolences to his family and spoke so highly of him.
Cave worked his way onto the Oilers’ roster and looked ready for a full-time spot. His energy and grit would have kept him on the team for years. So, when that young fan asks, “Who was Colby Cave?” the parent can respond that he will be an Oiler forever.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.