Fundraiser for the late hockey player Tyler Haarstad’s children raises an estimated $40,000.
INNISFAIL – The very best face of the town shined brightly last weekend at the Innisfail Twin Arena when a men’s seniors hockey team not only honoured the memory of one of their fallen but rallied Innisfailians to help the children of the beloved late player and father.
Tyler Haarstad, who lived and breathed hockey with an “Always an Eagle” motto, died suddenly on the morning of June 9, 2022.
He was 39-years-old, and had three children – Presley, Lennon and Jagger.
He was known by his teammates as “Haarsty”, a hockey warrior who always gave the game everything he had on the ice.
Haarsty played six seasons with the Innisfail Eagles from 2013 to 2019, and eight before that with the Bentley Generals where he was part of two Allan Cup-winning teams in 2009 and 2013.
Before his senior men’s hockey career he briefly played one junior season with the Olds Grizzlys, another with the Trail Smoke Eaters in B.C., and two more with the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves.
To honour the man and his dedication to the game of hockey and his family, the Eagles hockey team stepped up big time on the evening of Feb. 25 with an Innisfail Eagles Alumni Fundraiser Game for Haarsty’s children.
The alumni game featured more than 40 former players who each paid $50 to participate, with part of the total going to Haarsty’s kids. There was also a silent auction held with proceeds also going to the children.
Haarsty’s three children were there with their mother Bailey Quirico, along with his younger brother Cody and parents Sherry and Everett Haarstad.
When the evening was over, Ryan Dodd, the Eagle’s general manager, said the team was still collecting funds for silent auction items but estimated about $40,000 was raised for Haarsty’s kids; funds that will go towards an education fund.
“The night was an overwhelming positive tribute to Tyler for sure,” said former Eagles coach and general manager Jason Lenz, who emceed an emotional presentation before the alumni game. “I think we made a pretty big impact on the family for sure.
“We all know Tyler loved those kids more than anything else in the world and that is the reason why we are here tonight,” said Lenz, who introduced the late hockey player’s family to the audience. “He was the ultimate team guy first. He always put his teammates in front of himself, and that’s why he was loved by all of us here tonight.”
Each of the three children were given an Eagles jersey with their dad’s number 17 and “Haarsty” on the back.
Former Eagles coach Brian Sutter came to the tribute and presented the family with the last hockey stick Haarsty used while playing with the Innisfail Eagles. It was another emotional moment for everyone.
“Haarsty was a special young man. Him and I were really close and went through a lot of things together. He was like a son to me and a good friend,” said Sutter. “This is nice for Haarsty and his family and his kids. It is all about respect and Haarsty was a well-liked individual. It’s a special night.”
Haarsty’s brother Cody, a resident of Bentley, said the evening was a night that will always remain special for the entire family.
“This means more than we could have ever imagined. There’s a lot of good guys here who loved playing hockey with Tyler,” said Cody. “I know he (Tyler) is looking down on us right now. He would love to be here and we are all here for him.
“What the Eagles have done here, the organization, is unmatchable,” he added. “It’s one of the finest things you’ll ever see. It’s really heartwarming.”