Evan Thomas never liked a production. He wouldn't have wanted all the attention on him, but that's where it was on Thursday night at Mosaic Place.
"He never wanted anything to be a production, so when [the banner] was going up, I squeezed my daughter's hand and I said, 'How's this for a production,'" said Scott Thomas, father of Evan.
The Moose Jaw Generals honoured Thomas during a jersey retirement ceremony prior to their game against the Notre Dame Argos on Thursday night. Thomas was one of the 16 players, coaches and staff that died in April's Humboldt Broncos bus crash. His family was on hand to see the banner head up into the rafters, joining other Moose Jaw hockey greats like Theo Fleury, Mike Keane, Kelly Buchberger, and Ryan Smyth.
"My wife Laurie's family is from [Moose Jaw], I was fortunate enough to play here, we have a cabin out at Buffalo Pound Lake, so Moose Jaw is home, and to have him recognized here forever is quite a thing for us, we're going to be able to come back and see his number up there and it will definitely put a little warmth in hearts when we see it up there," said Scott.
After starting his Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League career with his hometown Saskatoon Blazers, Thomas joined the Generals for two seasons, posting 53 points in 63 games.
He was in his rookie season with the Broncos when the crash happened.
Scott said that moments like Thursday's jersey retirement have helped his family heal from the loss of Evan, "Every opportunity we get to talk about Evan is another reason for us to smile," he said.
"We came here tonight and I see several of my old teammates in the stands, some guys that I played with back in the day that are here to support us and so we’ll have a big hug and a tear will roll down our cheeks, but how close the hockey community is and how special this opportunity is to remember him."
Scott is a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors Hall of Fame and he said it was special to have Evan come to play hockey in Moose Jaw as well.
"I never really thought of it as him following in my footsteps, but I just knew how the community took me in and 30-35 years later, it still does. The community still accepts me as one of their own and I knew it would do that for him too," said Thomas.
Generals captain Brendan Kemp is the only player remaining from Thomas' time with the Generals, while a number of his former teammates were in the stands for Thursday's ceremony. Kemp said it was an emotional start to the game.
"I played with Evan during my first year here in Moose Jaw, so it was emotional for sure," said Kemp. "He was always an upbeat guy in the dressing room, he was pretty positive and worked his ass off in practice, he just went hard day-in and day-out."
The Generals couldn't cap off the special night with a win, falling 3-2 in a shootout to the Argos.