Minor league hockey players put aside rivalry to honour slain goalie

Minor league hockey players put aside rivalry to honour slain goalie

Two minor league hockey teams put aside their ongoing rivalry and took to the ice on Sunday to play a game entirely dedicated to their slain colleague, star goalie Roy Pejcinovski.

It was supposed to be a fiercely competitive playoff game for the Greater Toronto Hockey League championship cup. The series is currently at 5-2 with the Flyers in the lead.

Instead, Pejcinovski's team, the Don Mills Flyers, and their opponents, the Toronto Marlboros switched their sticks, blended their teams, donned shirts with an "R" for Roy on the front and played 45-minutes of hockey. The only score displayed throughout the entire game was 7-4; a tribute to Pejcinovski's jersey number, 74.

The 15-year-old was found dead in his Ajax home with his mother, Krassimira Pejcinovski, 39, on Wednesday. His 13-year-old sister, Venallia Pejcinovski, was also found in the home suffering from life-threatening injuries. She later died in hospital. 

Cory Fenn, 29, a man believed to have been in a relationship with Krassimira Pejcinovski, has been arrested for their deaths. 

The tragedy has shaken Toronto's tight-knit hockey community. 

"What a lot of people don't realize is that a lot of these kids have been playing against each other since they were 4 or 5," private fitness trainer Phil Zullo told CBC Toronto.

Zullo trains several of the young players in the GTHL, Pejcinovski's league. 

'Display of sportsmanship, courage and honour'

"This is the most amazing display of sportsmanship, courage and honour," he said, adding that Sunday's game goes a long way in helping the players to cope with the trauma of their colleague's violent death. 

The GTHL has also made grief counselling available for the Flyers and the Marlboros, a spokesperson told CBC Toronto. 

The two teams were in constant competition, Zullo said. "The [Marlboros] were [Pejcinovski's] enemy for a few game but today you can see how much they respected the kid," he explained. 

It wasn't just the Marlboros. Goalies from across the league watched the game from the bench in their jerseys.

The Don Mills Flyers were scheduled to play last Friday, just two days after Pejcinovski's death, but that game was cancelled in light of the tragedy. 

Adrienne Middlebrook, a spokesperson for The GTHL, said the idea to play the friendly game came from the two teams.  

Peter MacInnis, president of the Don Mills Flyers, told CBC Toronto on Wednesday night that Pejcinovski was "an elite athlete, [a] great kid" who played goalie the past five years.

Pejcinovski would have been eligible and a high pick for the OHL draft next year, according to MacInnis.

"What an honour for Roy's family," Zullo said of Sunday's unifying game. "Hopefully he's up there, smiling down on these guys."