Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Liam Kirkwood, OHL draft pick, dies at 18; former team wins championship the next dayWords fail to capture what it must be like for a family and a community to lose a son, a brother, a friend who was just 18 years old. Of course, in sad times, profundity can never fill in the void; it's about being about to carry on and become stronger while carrying that person's spirit.

Two years ago, many in the Ontario Hockey League rallied around Liam Kirkwood after the Kingston Frontenacs draft choice was diagnosed with leukemia. While there was optimism, it wasn't to be. The Sudbury, Ont., native died Saturday, aged 18, which was coincidentally the same day as the OHL priority selection draft, an occasion which was one of the high points of his life.

The remarkable part is that his former team, the Sudbury Nickel Capitals, were able to honour Kirkwood's memory by winning their regional AAA midget championship the following day in Sault Ste. Marie. As both Brad Coccimiglio at Soo Today and Bruce Heidman of the Sudbury Star, the Nickel Caps put Kirkwood in their hearts for the final the final day. Then they beat the London Jr. Knights 4-3 to advance to the Telus Cup, the national championship.

The Nickel Caps got some extra motivation Saturday evening when the news reached the team that former Nickel Capitals player Liam Kirkwood had passed away earlier in the day after a long battle with cancer.

"It was a quiet bus ride home after dinner," [Sudbury coach Peter Michelutti Jr.] said. "A lot of guys played with him and his brother and I coached him his first year playing midget. We had a wall of pictures of people everyone was playing for starting in the Nickel City series and we bring it everywhere we go and we got a picture of Liam (Sunday) morning and put him on wall and we played for him today. Our hearts go out to the Kirkwood family and he was in the back of our minds." (Sudbury Star)

At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, this puts another face to the push to find donors for bone marrow and stem cells across North America, much like with the late Mandi Schwartz. It's a shame. There's no other way to put it.

Liam Kirkwood, whom Kingston chose in the ninth round in 2009, is survived by his parents Jennifer and Rick Kirkwood, grandmother Betty Ernst and three siblings: Kyllian, Devyn (his twin) and Sheehan. Liam's online obituary notes he was an accomplished athlete excelling in many sports — his talents and skills were reflected in his being drafted by the Kingston Frontenac Hockey Team in 2009."

The Kirkwoods say donations to the Sick Kids Hospital, Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer or Pediatrics Oncology Group of Ontario would be appreciated.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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