The outpouring of grief, as well as an abundance of emotional support for the wife and family of former Swift Current Broncos captain Colby Cave flooded social media Saturday, after the hockey world learned of his death.

The 25-year-old played four years in Swift Current - from 2011-15 - wearing the 'C' the final two of those seasons.

Cave evidently became a fan-favourite over that time, leaving the program and southwest Saskatchewan with local fans, coaches, and extended family all singing his praises.

"I didn't know Colby before he came to Swift Current, but his dad and I spent every summer together," said current Principal - and then-Vice Principal - of the Swift Current Comprehensive High School, Larry Kielo, who is Cave's first cousin once removed.

"Colby's dad and myself are first cousins. When Colby got traded from Kootenay to Swift Current, it was kind of nice to reconnect with his dad and get to know the family a little bit more, and to get to know Colby."

Cave came over from the Kootenay ICE as one of a plethora of pieces in the deal for forward Cody Eakin in the 2010-11 season.

The North Battleford-born Cave was the 13th overall pick by the ICE in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, and soon found a place to be called home after the early-January 2011 trade.

"I remember when Caver first came to us. He was the prospect in the big deal that we got that (Mark Lamb) and (Jamie Porter) thought was going to be a real good player," said then-Broncos assistant coach, Darren Evjen.

Cave made his Broncos debut less than two months later - a February 25 game against the Regina Pats.

"He came up for a game and I remember being in the coaches room showing him video on systems. So excited and so scared all at the same time. Just having a little chat with him. He was just a young kid," Evjen said. "The look on his face, I was laughing. I'm just going 'relax Caver, just go out and play - you're going to be fine'. I just remember having a laugh with him and going through it. It just showed how excited he was to be playing that game. You're excited for him. You didn't know at that time what he was going to turn into for the organization, but he was a big part of the organization at that time."

That was Cave's lone game of the season, as he went back to finish up with the Battlefords Stars in the SMAAAHL, though it sparked the start of something special in Swift Current.

"From there, he comes back the next year. He plays in a bottom-six role, but he's a kid you can move up from time to time and always do really well, and fill the upper six as a young player," Evjen said. "He was kind of a quieter guy in the room. Every day came to work, and worked at his game after practice. Just a positive guy in the room. No bad days for him, just everything was always good. A real great young guy to have in your room."

Cave finished his first full year with six goals and 16 points, playing in 70 games.

Things took off from there. The first of two big leaps in production saw a sophomore campaign close with 21 goals and 41 points in the regular season, along with four points in five playoff games.

However, the points were the only tangible gain for Cave and the organization, as there was character-aplenty coming from the second-year.

"Then he progresses into this top-six player. He gets older, and his leadership - not a loud voice, but definitely would talk when he needed to, and point the ship in the right direction, and hold guys in that room accountable. The first guy he's going to hold accountable is himself," said Evjen. "That's the type of guy he is. He'd give time to everybody. As long as you were all in, he would help you with anything. As a coach you could talk to him, he was an intelligent guy. The trust you could have in Caver was so great between the coaches and him, and his teammates and him. That's what made him such a good leader. He'd do anything to win, and play any role to win, and you could put him anywhere."

Cave received the ultimate honour in his third season, as he was chosen to be the face of the team and bear captain status.

"I think when you get to that level and you've got guys that have been around four years or three years - Caver or (Adam) Lowry - it just radiates out, like 'this is our leader'. You don't have to convince the players, they know who the leader is in there," said Evjen on the easy decision on who to give the 'C' to. "He stood out - without a doubt - that he was going to lead our team, and he did it as a young guy."

Cave went on to close that junior season with another nearly-30 point jump. He tallied 33 goals and 70 points in the regular season, adding two assists in six playoff games.

The leadership had long been fostered off the ice as well, as the aforementioned extended family member who was VP of SCCHS so vividly remembered over half a decade later in several manners:

"If there was one thing to describe him, he was the type of person that always did the right thing. Not for his own purpose or his own motivations, it was always for the betterment of somebody else." said Kielo. "He stood up for what was right, but he did it in the right way. He held himself accountable, he held his teammates accountable. He was humble and you never heard him say the word 'I' too much - it was always 'we' and 'us'. He was that person that just carried himself in the right way, people wanted to be around him - just the type of guy that was a leader."

"He always shook your hand. People will shake your hand, but he shakes your hand with conviction and with appreciation. He always struck me as that guy that was thankful for the people that he had around them, and he realized how blessed he was, and never took it for granted," Kielo continued. "There wasn't an arrogant bone in his body, it was just always Colby doing things for other people."

"He always did things that he didn't have to do. He would pop in here and say hello to my son. It would just be unannounced - he would just pop in and say hi. My son would have been six, seven years old," Kielo added.

Cave then rounded out his WHL career with yet another mark about the 70-point plateau. He recorded 75 (35 G, 40 A) appearing in all 72 games, before adding two goals in four playoff tilts.

Cave's final game in a Broncos uniform came against the same team as his first - the rival Regina Pats - in a 4-0 Game 4 loss.

Despite the tough end to his junior career, Cave was able to once again continue the leadership role, aiding rookies and young prospects in acclimating to the league. Among those young guns in the 2014-15 campaign were eventual WHL Champions Glenn Gawdin and Tyler Steenbergen.

"He showed the young guys how you become a top-end player in the Western Hockey League - the commitment, how you carry yourself, your work ethic day in day out," said Evjen, whose last season with the team was the year prior.

"He was such a genuine person, that he could just talk to those young guys and they felt comfortable. Even if it was a little harder of a conversation, they trusted him with what he would say. He wouldn't ask you to do anything he wouldn't do or wouldn't have done."

"He was just that guy that, when he finished up his WHL career, he stopped in at the school (O.M. Irwin) where I was working, wanted to say hi, and thank me for the few things I helped him with," said Kielo. "He was so independent and self-motivated. Not a lot of people had to help Colby do things. He was a proud guy and a hard-working guy, but he always appreciated things."

Cave managed to crack the AHL in 2015-16 as an undrafted free agent, suiting up with the Providence Bruins in the first of five season of professional hockey.

"His (hockey life) was an unbelievable road - paved and earned it himself. He didn't get drafted, but he always found a way to become a leader, become a good player, to fit in, to make the team - he did it even at the National Hockey League level," said Evjen.

In his career, Cave notably served as an alternate captain parts of three years in Providence, went on to score his first-career NHL goal with the Boston Bruins on December 17, 2018, and then got traded to the Edmonton Oilers later that year as well.

"I remember hearing that he was going to play for Boston his first game - watching, excited for him," said Evjen. "It doesn't matter which player comes through the Broncos - when they move on, that's the good part. You get to see these kids move on and get into something bigger, new challenges, and that's exciting for them."

Cave's last season was once more split between the AHL and NHL, in the Edmonton system this time.

His professional career closed with 147 total points in 307 combined AHL games, along with four goals and nine points in 67 NHL contests.

With all the praise for Cave's character ever since stepping into the Broncos' program, both Kielo and Evjen pointed to what they felt was the obvious source of all that humility - his parents, Al and Jennifer Cave.

"His parents were absolute great people. He became that good person because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and that's what his parents were like," said Evjen.

"They've obviously raised two kids that have all kinds of character and all kinds of maturity," added Kielo. "They raised a son that was trustworthy, hard-working, honest, and sincere... They raised a young man that I would hope to raise my child to be like some day."

Kielo, Evjen, and the rest of the hockey world are left mourning the loss of the man who became a fan-favourite wherever he seemed to go.

"You lose such a good person like Colby - words don't even describe it... You don't quit thinking about it throughout the day, that's for sure," said Evjen.

"Finding out this morning's news was hard and it's hard to think of his family right now. Just what they're going through, and just having to fly out there in the conditions that they're in. Obviously just having to deal with the reality of them not bringing their son and their husband home again," Kielo noted. "Family will get them through it. It's just hard to think about what they're dealing with in the immediacy of the news."

The consensus seems clear for the legacy of an individual whose full impact appears hard to fully translate on a whim due to the sudden passing.

"I guess that's the true measure of who we are as people - when we leave, that we have an impact on other people. The answer is an obvious yes with Colby," Kielo added.

"He was the best and it's hard to believe he's gone."

Check out the full interviews conducted with both individuals below.

Eric James Chats with Darren Evjen - Remembering Colby Cave:

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Eric James Chats with Larry Kielo - Remembering Colby Cave:

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