WGRZ tells the tragedy of Luke Gould, a young, rabid Sabres fan whose sudden passing two years ago still affects the Buffalo community of West Seneca where he lived.
His story (below video), written by freelance writer Chris Kazarian, was featured in our Nov. 4 issue.
On Nov. 16, Kevin Voit will be watching on TV when the Sabres take on the Maple Leafs in Toronto. He’ll be wishing for more than a Buffalo win, however, something his favorite team can’t provide: to have his grandson Luke Anthony Gould by his side.
Two years ago that day, Luke died suddenly and without warning. He was just 10. Voit and the Gould family will visit St. Matthew’s Cemetery in the Buffalo suburb of West Seneca, stopping at Luke’s gravesite on which a picture of a hockey goalkeeper is engraved.
“It is a very solemn day for us and a very quiet day,” Voit says. “We’ll be saying our prayers and thinking about our memories of him.”
Voit, 63, is a diehard Sabres fan and at one time he could often be found in the stands at the First Niagara Center seated next to Luke. The pair had their game-day traditions: they got to the arena early so Luke could watch his favorite player, Ryan Miller, parry shot after shot during warmup. And of course there were the hot dog and pack of hockey cards Voit always bought for ‘Lukey,’ who was also his best friend.
Such was the plan for Nov. 16, 2011, when the Sabres were set to face the New Jersey Devils. But that morning Luke never woke up. An autopsy revealed he’d died of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that can lead to heart failure. Since then Voit has been unable to summon the strength to make the trek to Buffalo to watch a Sabres game in person.
“I can’t go,” he says, crying.
About a mile away from Voit’s home, on a refrigerator owned by his daughter, Amy Voit Skowronski, is a note from her son that reads, “Mom, I’ll always love you.” Luke wrote it the night before he died.
“Whenever he got in trouble he would write notes on a piece of paper and throw them downstairs,” she says. “That was the last note he wrote to me.”
By all accounts Luke was a healthy child, a three-sport athlete who excelled at soccer and baseball. But his first love was hockey. Luke was involved with the West Seneca Youth Hockey Association for five years and was a favorite among players and coaches.
He even shared the same position as Miller, whose moves he’d mimic at home, walking around in his goalie equipment with a spaghetti strainer for a helmet. Though Luke never met his idol, Miller autographed a game stick of his after Luke’s death that reads, “To Luke, you will be missed” and is displayed in the boy’s grandparent’s home.
In this modest suburb of roughly 44,000 people, there have been tributes, large and small, to a boy who left a profound mark on the town. A bench and dressing room at the West Seneca Hockey Rink have been named after him and a soccer field in town now bears his name.
In May 2012, Skowronski travelled to Albany when the State Senate passed a resolution marking Nov. 16, 2012 as the first annual Myocarditis Awareness Day in New York. The day aligns with the goals of Lukey’s Legacy, a foundation started to raise awareness of the disease.
Later this Nov. 16 evening, after the Sabres-Leafs game is over, Voit and Skronkowski will be part of a candlelight vigil in Luke’s memory at Veterans Park in Buffalo, not far from where Luke played hockey. Last year, more than 200 people attended. It’s a time for friends and family to reflect on his life, even as they still struggle to come to terms with their loss.
“I ask myself, ‘Why? Why it had to be him,” Skowronski says. “It doesn’t make sense, but I believe he is in heaven and I believe he’s OK. My husband says he actually plays hockey up there. He’s on the hockey team, so he’s doing what he loves.”