The search for Rick Blight, well-known curler and former NHL star, ended tragically on Saturday when the missing man's body was discovered in a field near St. Ambroise.
Blight, a 49-year-old Portage la Prairie resident who had not been seen or heard from since April 3, was found with his pickup truck in a pasture Saturday morning.
RCMP have confirmed foul play is not suspected in his death.
'CLINGING TO HOPE'
Friend Dean Moxham, who played in several provincial championships with Blight as a member of Don Spriggs' curling team, said the discovery Saturday morning brought a shocking end to an ordeal that got underway when Blight last drove away from his wife in the truck.
"We had all hoped he was just out somewhere sorting things out with himself, and would call us up and say he was fine," said Moxham. "We were all clinging to that hope, anyway."
Moxham said he planned to visit with Blight's family in Portage later this week, along with Spriggs and fellow teammate Dale Michie.
"We wanted to give them some family time, because they need to deal with their grief," he said of Blight's relatives.
"We're good friends, but family comes first."
A relative of Blight's who asked not to be named said his immediate family was "devastated" by news of the discovery.
"They're all in pieces," she said. "It's just awful."
Moxham said Blight will be remembered as kind-hearted and generous by those who knew him.
"He was obviously a real good guy, and he'd go out of his way to help you when he saw fit," he said. "A lot of times he'd do it behind the scenes, because he wouldn't be looking for recognition."
A prominent businessman in Portage, where his family owned a farm implement dealership, Blight was also known for his stint in the NHL.
Blight played four seasons and part of two others with the Vancouver Canucks, leading the team in scoring in the 1976-77 season, with 28 goals and 40 assists in 78 games.
He retired from professional hockey in 1983 after playing two games with the Los Angeles Kings, having scored a total of 96 goals and 125 assists in 326 games.
Blight was drafted 10th overall by Vancouver in 1975 from his junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings.
He won the Western Hockey League's rookie-of-the-year award in 1973, and was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.