‘Got to say goodbye to my dad’: Keegan Kolesar left NHL playoff bubble for father’s final moments

Things are suddenly looking up for Manitoba’s Keegan Kolesar after an extremely difficult month of September.

After spending much of last season in the American Hockey League with the Chicago Wolves, Kolesar just signed a brand new two-year contract with the Vegas Golden Knights.

But it comes only a month after COVID-19 took the life of his father.

Kolesar was living the dream. Even though the 23-year-old wasn’t playing any games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was still on the Golden Knights’ playoff roster and was in the NHL bubble, training with some of the best in the world.

“It’s fun,” Kolesar said via Zoom. “For me, and maybe a couple of other us, (we) are young guys. We don’t have much responsibility outside of that. We didn’t have wives or girlfriends. We didn’t have kids or newborns coming in on the way, so it was a lot easier on us.

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“We could just kind of sit around and play cards all day.”

READ MORE: How baseball turned Seattle Thunderbirds Keegan Kolesar into a hockey star

But Kolesar would be forced to leave the playoff bubble before the Knights’ playoff elimination. His dad, former Winnipeg Goldeyes first baseman Charles Peterson, who had flown in to witness his first NHL game only months earlier, had come down with COVID-19.

“I approached management in Vegas when I was in the bubble,” Kolesar said. “I just said, ‘hey guys, this is what’s up with my dad. Would you be okay if I left ? He doesn’t have much time left.’ They were very accommodating.”

The Knights immediately flew Kolesar out to South Carolina to be at his fathers’ bedside.

“I think there was a time he was getting better and everything looking good, and then he just rapidly declined,” he said. “We got to say goodbye to my dad. And we had our last moment with him.

“It’s hard really to describe, you know — at the time, the emotions and everything — but I’m just very grateful that we had the opportunity to say goodbye to him.”

Kolesar is now back home in Winnipeg where he’s just starting his preparations for the next season, whenever it begins.

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READ MORE: Manitobans betting on future with Vegas Golden Knights

He’s hoping to become a full-time NHL player after injuries limited him to just 33 AHL games, along with a single NHL match in the 2019-2020 season.

It was sports that connected Kolesar with his father, and after his death, it’s sports that’s brought the family even closer together.

“It’s really tough on the family,” said Kolesar. “I think for my brother, sister and I — we’ve always had sports to fall back on. It’s always been a way to get away from everything in life and having that as an outlet. It’s also something my dad really invested all his time, and for us, he saw how important sports were for us, and they were equally important to him.”

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How baseball turned Seattle Thunderbirds Keegan Kolesar into a hockey star

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