Their hockey sticks were raised but today there was no joy.
Grown men choked back tears as two lines of 10 year olds, sporting black and red Caribous jerseys, gave a final salute to their teammate Joshua Wilcox as his casket was carried from Memorial United Church, Clarenville, to the waiting hearse.
Within the community of Clarenville, and beyond, his tragic death on Christmas Day has impacted many.
Christmas lights have been turned off in some neighbourhoods, and many have taken to Facebook to offer condolences to the family and share stories of a young boy who is remembered as cheerful, enthusiastic and loved to celebrate the success of others just as much as his own.
Carolyn Burton, who lives on the same street, has one particular memory that makes her smile.
In May this year she helped organize a walk for water in Africa. It was on the same day as the Power to Hope Run. The events were back to back, she told The Packet, and Joshua had signed up for both.
Joshua, who was just nine years old at the time, had just run the five-kilometre Power to Hope event, she says, when he showed up for the walk for water event.
“We had a walk,” she says, “but he decided he was going to run it.”
He ran the whole way.
“When he finished up he looked at me and said, ‘I can’t feel my legs.’
The 11 kilometres of running had definitely tired him out.
She says they had him sit down to rest, eat and drink to make sure he was okay.
His mother, Elizabeth, was also participating in the walk, says Burton, and someone mentioned she was just about to cross the finish line.
“With that he jumped up, grabbed the megaphone and started cheering her on, yelling, ‘Come on, Mom, you can do it’.”
Even though he had spent all his energy running, she says, “It was so important for him to cheer her on.”
Later that afternoon, recalls Burton, she learned he had gone to play soccer.
“He didn’t do anything half-heartedly,” she says. “He was just full of positive energy.”
Tributes have also poured in on social media for the young boy.
Joshua was an Atom player in the Clarenville Minor Hockey Association.
In a town where hockey is the dominant winter sport and friendships are formed between players and families at the local rink, his death impacted many well beyond his hometown.
In Clarenville, and in other towns across the province and throughout Canada, people offered condolences to the family by placing a hockey stick outside their front door — an expression of sympathy that began with the Broncos hockey team tragedy in Saskatchewan in 2018.
One of his coaches, Rebecca Russell, in a Facebook post a few days after his death, wrote, “His kindness, sweetness and willingness to help others feel welcomed, was just a few of the amazing qualities he exuded.”
Joshua loved hockey, she wrote.
“Every single Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. he was the first face I saw when I walked in the rink, always followed by his Dad. I could never beat them to the rink. His passion and love for the game was never something you had to question.”
And many tributes speak of his ‘infectious’ smile.
Former NHLer Danny Cleary met Joshua through the Danny Cleary Hockey School.
“He loved coming to our hockey school and will forever be remembered for that precious smile underneath his mask. It was contagious,” Cleary wrote in a Dec. 26 Facebook post.
His family and community held on to those memories today as they said their final farewell to Joshua.
As a bitter wind blew flakes of snow onto the church parking lot, in a final gesture of remembrance for someone who will be so greatly missed, his teammates lowered their sticks and shouted in unison, “3-2-1 Joshua.”