Just hours before the Princeton Posse playoff game against the Revelstoke Grizzlies, on Sunday March 26, the team was delivered tragic news.
When team captain Jake McCulley skated to center ice to claim the banner from a league official, he carried Posse jersey 18, the player number formerly worn by Mort Johnston, assistant Posse coach, who was killed earlier in the day in a vehicle incident.
Johnson, a well-loved local personality on and off the ice, was 25.
According to RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes police were notified at approximately 2 p.m. Sunday of a vehicle incident on Old Hedley Road near Princeton.
A car left the road and travelled down an embankment, struck several trees, and flipped over. The driver was ejected from the car and while the airbag was deployed the seatbelt was found fully retracted, according to Hughes.
An investigation is continuing.
The team made the difficult decision to play the game in Johnston’s honour with the support and encouragement of his family.
This decision produced an impassioned contest for the Posse, who went on to defeat the Grizzlies 2-1 to advance to the Teck Cup Finals, with players from both sides sharing an emotional moment after the final whistle blew.
The Princeton native moved into coaching his hometown team after suiting up for the Posse in 159 games over four seasons from 2014 to 2018.
“He was a tenacious and energetic player and beloved teammate,” said the KIJHL in a press release. “The KIJHL offers its deepest sympathies to the Johnston family, the Posse organization and the community of Princeton.”