Eulogy - Jacob Leicht

Jacob Leicht's eulogy was presented at his funeral by Shaun Gardiner and is a part of the Humboldt Broncos memorial page with permission from his family.

It is game four in the series between the Humboldt Broncos and Nipawin Hawks. I am sitting in section X with Cory Popoff and Mark Marianchuk and I comment to Cory and Mark how I think Jacob will be involved in the game-winning goal. Near us, is Jacob's dad, Kurt who always stands at games. Near us, are his number one fans and season ticket holders: Celeste and Isaac, both sets of grandparents, Uncle Eric and a pile of other relatives. Kiana and Karysa were sitting in the stands with friends. The arena was packed with people. For many, Jacob was a crowd favorite.          

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Ultimately, we all know that the Broncos didn't win that night. The Hawks scored early in the third overtime and led the series 3 to 1, Nevertheless, this game epitomized Jacob’s perseverance in competitive hockey. From the beginning, when he started playing competitive hockey, he had to prove to everyone, through hard work, dedication, and toughness that he belonged out there and could succeed when given the opportunity.  

Jacob Paul Benjamin Leicht was born February 14, 1999 to Kurt and Celeste at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Humboldt. Kurt and Celeste’s “Valentine’s Baby,” their firstborn, was a shining light. From the beginning, Jacob was cheery, active, and bright. His earliest friendships were established at Lia Suchan’s home daycare, our next-door neighbor. It is through Lia, that our families first got to know one another and it is here where the Leichts got the idea to get their beloved family dog, Sadie. She was from the same litter as our dog, Mojo. Jacob’s love for Sadie was unmeasurable. 

Jacob attended St. Dominic School, where his mom was his Gr. 6 homeroom teacher. He loved his classmates and teachers. He moved onto Humboldt Collegiate Institute, where he maintained relationships and built new ones, despite being away for most of his grade 12 year. In Humboldt, he played Bronco hockey from a young age, winning the Midget AA League Championship twice. His Midget AA career culminated in a Provincial Title in 2016, where he was coached by his dad, whom, Jacob called his most influential role model. Jacob attended St. Mary High School in Prince Albert for part of his grade 12 year while he played for the Prince Albert AAA Mintos. There, he shared a class with his cousin, Cassidi, who welcomed him to P.A. by toilet papering his vehicle one night. Although Jacob’s focus was on athletics, he was also an excellent student and received the Mintos Scholastic Award and graduated from HCI as an honor roll student. Jacob was also musical, artistic, creative, bright and strong in his faith.  

He received these attributes from Kurt and Celeste. Kurt states that hockey was the game that allowed Jacob to reveal his character to others. Kurt was so proud to point out that Jacob worked for everything he received. He was not the biggest, strongest, or most skilled, but he worked hard to rise above his limitations. Kurt believes strongly that Jacob was the person he was because of his family, his teachers, his coaches, and members of his church community. Celeste feels very satisfied and blessed to have such a great kid. She describes Jacob as kind to everyone and that he treated others well. The only thing that Celeste says that he did not excel at was cleaning.  

Did you know that Jacob had a mischievous side and was a bit of a goofball? Andrea Fossen, a teacher at St. Dominic School and a colleague of Celeste says that everyone had good things to say about Jacob. Andrea’s son Brady and Jacob were playing outside one day after school at St. Dominic on the snow hill. They were pushing each other, so Celeste and Andrea gave them heck for roughhousing while playing on the snow hill. In response to the reprimand, Brady and Jacob decided to hug each other and then proceeded to roll down the hill together. Everyone knows the story of Jacob going to Stoney Lake Bible Camp with Brady, my son Erik, and other friends, for one week in the summer during elementary school, and not showering for an entire week. When questioned about this, they replied, “But we’ve been in the lake every day.” The smell on the way home was so strong of body odor and little boy sweat that the vehicle windows had to be rolled down.  

Do you know that Jacob was an excellent skeet marks man? Ken Morrison, the head coach for the Prince Albert Mintos and Team Chaplin Mark Bergen commented that during an early-season team-building activity involving skeet shooting, Jacob went head-to-head with an RCMP officer in shooting consecutive skeets until such time that Pastor Mark said that they had to stop or they were going to be late for supper. The RCMP officer who was instructing the skeet shooting said to fellow Minto Logan Barlage, who had missed multiple skeets, “I sure hope that you can score more goals than you can shoot skeets.” 

Jacob was the classic underdog hockey player that everybody roots for.  He was a very fluid and fast skater, despite being smaller in stature than his peers.  He had the drive and will that allowed him to earn ice time opportunities and playing time on all the teams he ever played on.  Coach Ken stated “when Jacob made the Mintos, Jacob started on the 4th line and performed all the No Glory Jobs, which included blocking shots, playing against other teams’ best players, having different line mates most nights and possibly reduced ice time.” Ken went on to say that despite being given the no glory jobs and 4th line duty, that Jacob was able to, by the end of the year, work his way to the top six forwards. 

Celeste shared two of her favorite 'underdog' memories. At the beginning of his first year of Midget hockey, he tried out at the Humboldt Midget AA camp, not knowing he had a broken wrist from playing a wicked game of Man tracker with the Shaners and the Yungmans at St. Brieux Lake in July. He played a couple of weeks of volleyball and several weeks of golf before realizing he should get his wrist checked out. By the time his wrist was casted, he was cut from the team. He went from being an A.P. with the AAs, to making the team in January, to scoring 4 goals and making a couple assists during a playoff game against Beardy's in front of a packed rink and his hometown crowd. That was the year of the team's first League Championship. Celeste's second favorite 'underdog' story is when the Mintos played their home opener against the Tisdale Trojans in Tisdale, a team that cut him, and he scored an unassisted, short-handed goal, then assisted another one. After the game, two of his best buddies, Blake Berschminsky and Tommy Bollefor congratulated him with a grin. Tom said, "Man you made me mad out there". Jacob loved playing with and against his buddies. He simply wanted to play. And play his heart out is what he did.  

Jacob’s Mintos billets were Shari Paul and Jerry Altstadt. Shari says that Jacob was an introvert. He was reserved, shy, a charmer, always had little to say, but was a great kid to have around. She said they spent a lot of time visiting at mealtime, and felt very sad when Jacob left at the end of the season. Despite what Celeste said about Jacob’s lack of cleaning skills, Shari remembers that Jacob was always willing to help with clean-up around the house, clearing the table, and doing the dishes. So, Celeste, I guess you let Jacob off the hook too many times. Celeste recalls a phone call to Jacob one night asking him what Shari made for supper that night to which he replied, "chicken". She asked him, "What kind of chicken?" his response was, "I don't know, Mom, the not dry kind". They were the ultimate billet parents.  

When Jacob made the Broncos, he began in the same spot as he did with the Mintos - performing the no-glory jobs, having a variety of line mates, reduced ice times, and maybe even scratched on any given night. Number 11, quickly established through gritty play and determination that he would be a regular in the Bronco lineup. Fans and teammates slowly understood that Jacob would become one of the hardest-working Broncos. One could see that the coaching staff and veteran players appreciated his drive and determination. It was obvious chemistry and trust starting to develop between all forwards and Jacob as the season progressed.  

Jacob’s fearless play became appreciated by fans. Kurt and Celeste you must be proud of the relentless, determined, committed character player that Jacob exhibited night in and night out. Many nights Jacob was punished, hit, grabbed, roughed-up, yet kept coming back harder and stronger, every shift. Fans could only admire the heart of a young man who would be willing to sacrifice so much for his team.  

Although Jacob is known for his time on the ice and his dedication to the sport that he loved, he was also a caring person outside of the hockey arena. Jacob loved his siblings. He and Isaac shared a bedroom the first half of their lives, then shared the basement and a bathroom in the new house (and possibly a toothbrush for a while before realizing it). The brothers, who looked a lot alike, shared a love for the outdoors. They loved to explore outside, collect frogs and bugs together when they were little. According to their parents, they never sat still and what one didn't think of doing, the other one did. They were a mischevous pair who seemed to get along best when they tormented their mom – ALWAYS crossing the line. They bonded during the annual Leicht men fishing trips, enjoying ganging up on cousin, Troy, and playing the big cousin role. The two brothers had the opportunity to travel to France last spring for the 100th anniversary of the Vimy Ridge Battle where they got to see first hand where their great-grandfather Leray faught WWI. A trip that will never be forgotten.  

Jacob's sidekick, Kiana constantly roughhoused, wrestled and poked fun at each other.  Kiana looked up to Jacob and was always very interested who he was friends with or romantically involved with.  So much so, Kiana may have eavesdropped on the odd time on some face time visits with Kayleigh.  Kiana’s love for her own hockey comes from her brother.  The two siblings trained together last summer, encouraging each other to do their best. Jacob watched Kiana win a triple OT play-off game in Prince Albert in March, which pumped him up for the start of his own play-off series. He was very proud of her accomplishments. They had an arrangement where Jacob would let Kiana ride with him to Tim Horton's if she footed the bill.  

Jacob loved being silly with little goofball sister Karysa. Whether it was playing in the yard or inside the house, Karysa brought out the soft side of Jacob, particularly when she was a baby and was a little girl. When she was little and couldn't sleep or wanted company, she went downstairs to Jacob's room and got the comfort that she needed from him. As she got older, he teased her mercilessly, as older brothers do, but still called her 'Big Girl' or 'Boo' with affection.  

Jacob’s grandparents and uncles were avid supporters of Jacob’s hockey at all levels. Uncle Eric was a season ticket holder. Aunty Betty, Meagan, Matthew and Jade watched when they could. Uncle Paul-Emile, watched him at Bronco camp in the fall before heading back to Japan. He also had annual shoot-outs in the back yard. Uncle David and cousin Max drove from Great Falls, MT, to the Mac's tournament in Calgary last year at Christmas time, then to Nipawin a couple of weeks ago with Mackenzy to watch game 2 of the play-off series. Aunty Hayley learned how Canadians play the game from satellite tv many a night in Montana. Jacob was fortunate to have many relatives and friends follow his hockey games.  

Kayleigh, Jacob’s girlfriend, has memories of talking on the phone and racking up huge phone bills, face timing, watching movies, and going fishing on their first meeting and playing a prank on Dayden Dvernichuk . After their first official introduction, they quickly realized the chemistry between them, and developed a strong relationship. Kayleigh describes Jacob as a big softie and that he went above and beyond to make her feel cared for on a daily basis. Kayleigh says that Jacob was gentle, humble, and supportive.  

As his physical education teacher, personal trainer and hockey coach, Jacob and I had a love of health, wellness and fitness. We enjoyed chatting about how important it was to be fit and healthy. Jacob was such a good Physed student, so fit, so willing to push the limits of himself to get to where he wanted and ultimately wanted to go in his hockey career.  

Jacob was a great friend to my son Erik. Erik could not talk enough about how he really enjoyed spending time with Jacob and how Jacob was the “hardest working, toughest little SOB” he had ever come across. Erik and I listened to game 3 on the way home from Kelowna and were so excited to see Jacob and the Broncos play in game 4 vs Nipawin. 

Outside of his hockey dreams, Jacob and I had lightly discussed a career related to Kinesiology, Sports Science, Sports Medicine or any career related to sports, health and wellness. I told him with his marks he could choose any career he wanted but see how far hockey could take him. I have no doubt Jacob would have been successful in any field he would have chosen and it would sure would have been so nice for a local boy to live out his hockey dream right in front our eyes here at the Elgar Peterson Arena.  

Conclusion 

As I sat in section X in game 4 between the Broncos and Hawks I couldn’t help but remember that #11 that won me over back in his early days of Humboldt Minor Hockey. Any coach would have been impressed with his determination, grit, and coach ability. Most importantly, Jacob was a young man of integrity and faith who treated others, as he wanted to be treated. Hockey was second. That night I was not Jacobs’s coach, teacher or personal trainer, I was his fan cheering for him. His legacy will live on forever. God bless you, Jacob.

© Copyright Humboldt Journal

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