Yet, when it was all said and done, you could make a very strong case that the scoreboard was secondary. The reason behind that was a jersey retirement and celebration of life for Noah Dugas.
Only close family could attend the funeral a year ago due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s an incredible honour,” Dave Dugas, Noah’s dad said after the ceremony. “To have a jersey retired says a lot about an athlete so I am sure Noah is looking down on this and is very proud of everything going on here today.”
The #71 jerseys will reside at North Bay’s Memorial Gardens.
Noah’s story captured the attention, and hearts of the hockey world just over a year ago. The 13-year-old suffered from a stroke in the summer of 2020, ultimately passing away in November of that year. During his battle, tributes poured in from around the hockey world, including from NHL players.
“The support we got was overwhelming,” Dave explained. “He loved the game from day one, even before minor hockey. He was out on the backyard rink when he was three.”
“He loved every aspect of the game and was a very sportsman-like player. I used to challenge him to take penalties, but he loved the game and met a lot of good people through the game.”
Although it has been almost a year since Noah’s passing, the support was evident throughout Memorial Gardens on Saturday. A lot of jerseys could be spotted in the crowd, along with the 7N1D #NoahStrong shirts and hats.
“It was overwhelming back then, and it’s overwhelming to this day,” said Dave.
“The support is still there, whenever people hear about us doing something, we have them coming up and begging to be involved.”
“We can’t thank the city enough, and surrounding areas too because it went far beyond North Bay because Noah’s story almost went worldwide.”
The family has also set up the Noah Strong Charitable Organization.
“It was based on who Noah is and what he did for us and taught us,” Noah’s mother, Jody said. “I think we want to say thank you to our community, support our community and doing what Noah lived by; being strong, being kind, and doing all these wonderful things that we hope to continue with.”
“The support was in large part why we made the decision to go with an organization,” Dave added. “It kind of took on a life of its own and we felt that it had so much power. We needed to turn what was a tragic thing for us into something good in the end and that’s what we will do at this point.”
Organizers with the Noah Strong Charitable Organization says the charity will focus on four areas:
- Empowering youth
- Organ donation awareness
- Supporting families in crisis
- Understanding youth stroke
When Noah passed, his organs were used to help save seven lives, according to his parents.
“It’s overwhelming,” Jody stated. “To know that’s the type of person Noah is and was, we want to help others, and that means so much to us that other lives were saved from this.”
“We did hear back from the heart recipient so that was wonderful, an 11-year-old girl and the family expressed so much gratitude. We’re helping a family that doesn’t have to go through something that we went through. Organ donation is definitely something we would like to bring more awareness to and make sure we can remember Noah.”
With the seven lives impacted by Noah, his presence will be felt for years to come, but when it comes to the jerseys residing in Memorial Gardens, it will be felt forever.