Two years after tragedy struck the CFR Chemical Bisons and the Lavallee family, the team has decided to unretire Markus Lavallee’s No. 17, but will be honouring the former player in an even bigger way.
Lavallee and his grandmother Kathleen passed away as a result of a tragic car accident 16-kilometres south of the former home of the Bisons – Strathmore July 11, 2015.
No. 17 will now and in the future be worn by each season’s captain.
“I felt really strong about it when (the team’s board) asked me about it,” said Lavallee’s father, Derek. “It’s different from a jersey hanging or a plaque on the wall because that is a lot easier to forget. (Wearing No. 17) is something a young man can strive for and work at and helps keep the legacy alive.”
Lavallee’s mother, Shantelle, said of all the ways Lavallee’s life has had tribute paid to it, making the captain ‘C’ and No. 17 go constantly hand-in-hand is one of the best ways to remember her son.
Although most of the ties between Lavallee and the Bisons have moved on from the team and midget hockey, the Bisons continue to pay tribute to the fallen player.
With the 2017-18 season being the first year of this new Bisons’ tradition, Ryan Ries has become the first captain to wear No. 17. Ries said an honour like this is something he wasn’t going to take for granted in his final season of midget hockey.
“I want to make sure I push myself and represent (Lavallee) as best as I can,” he said. “I never got the chance to meet him, but I’ve heard many positive things. He was the hardest worker, put the time in to improve himself on and off the ice and was a great role model.”
Lavallee’s sister Kayla added the new tradition will allow young players who never got to know Lavallee a chance to know his story.
“Growing up in arenas, you walk in and there is countless ones that have jerseys hanging from the roof, but you don’t really know the story behind that jersey,” Kayla said. “It’s interesting to do something different because the fact that the captain will always be No. 17, people will ask the background of why that is.
“It will keep him with us and with the team.”
According to his family, making the Bisons was a major goal Lavallee had throughout his hockey career. They said having his former team pay tribute to him like this is a great honour to his memory.
“Seventeen will always be associated with Markus,” Shantelle said. “To know that there are players that will also be wearing that, also warms our hearts knowing he will not be forgotten.”
Lavallee and his family lived in Chestermere for a majority of his life before moving to Strathmore the season he made the Bisons roster.