Hockey 04

Leigh Owen Verstraete

January 6, 1962 ~ August 7, 2023 (age 61) 61 Years Old


It is with utmost sorrow that we announce the sudden passing of Leigh Verstraete, on Monday, August 7, 2023. Leigh is mourned and will be forever missed by Karen, his beloved wife of 39 years; daughter, Kaitlin (Jordan); and son, Jackson. Leigh will also be missed by his father, Lyle Verstraete; in-laws, Scott and Margaret Brown; brothers, Gregory (Donna), and Curtis (Civia); brother-in-law, David (Tammy); and a large extended family of relatives and dear friends. Leigh was predeceased by his mother, Gaery, and brother, David.

Leigh was born in Pincher Creek, AB, but moved shortly after to Calgary, AB. Leigh was the youngest of four boys and grew up in a busy, boisterous family who enjoyed camping, skiing, fishing, biking, swimming, and other outdoor pursuits at home and at their Panorama cabin.

Leigh was a natural athlete who excelled in many sports, but it became clear at a young age that hockey was his game. Leigh played community hockey in Varsity Acres and was then signed to the WHL, where he played forward for the Red Deer Rustlers, Billings Bighorns, and the Calgary Wranglers, with Coach Doug Sauter. Leigh achieved a Canadian boyhood dream when he was drafted to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, playing professionally for six years before suffering a career-ending injury.

After hockey ended, Leigh completed his high school requirements and then attended the University of Calgary, where he graduated with a BSc degree. He worked in Calgary as an account executive at Tie Communications and then on a number of Business Development teams in the oil and gas industry for Tarpon Energy, Flint Energy, and most recently, PTW Energy. Leigh applied the same strong work ethic, enthusiasm, and integrity in his professional life that he had always shown on the ice. He was a real “people person” at the office and throughout a successful career enjoyed workplace relationships and friendships he had with both colleagues and customers.

At home, Leigh’s priority was his family. He spent hours driving the two kids to activities at the Calgary Winter Club and later, to dance and hockey. He supported Kaitlin’s dance career at McDonald-Wilson, and there was not a prouder dad in the stands watching Jackson play hockey at the community, quadrant, and AJHL levels. I’m sure he will still be watching over them with immense love and pride, as Kait continues her teaching career in Australia and Jack begins firefighter training in BC. Leigh’s biggest regret will be missing walking Kaitlin down the aisle to Jordan in December, but Jackson is more than happy to step in for his dad. The Verstraetes enjoyed family time together biking, walking dogs, watching movies, hiking, and skiing in the mountains. They particularly cherished their annual Hawaiian holiday where they hiked, swam, surfed, golfed, snorkeled, and explored the islands together.

Leigh was an avid sportsman and continued to follow the training of an elite athlete his whole life. He ran, lifted weights, biked, and golfed with equal intensity and determination. To celebrate his 40th birthday, he ran the Vegas Marathon, finishing in under four hours! In his spare time, Leigh was a dedicated gardener. He created beautiful outdoor spaces in all of our homes with shrubs, planters, decks, patios, and rock gardens.

Leigh died very peacefully in his sleep, at home. We moved to Harmony in March, and he was so happy with the new house, neighborhood, and beautiful mountain views. He was taken far too soon, but the health complications that have plagued him over the last two years just became too much and everyone is glad that his suffering has ended.

We know that we will meet again someday, but in the meantime, our hope is that Leigh is in a place with a beautiful garden, a great golf course, a pristine snorkeling spot, hot wings, Guinness beer, and all of his dogs! Oh, and of course, his big black truck to drive around!

The family would like to thank the medical teams at both the RGH and the FMC that cared for Leigh over the past two years. In lieu of flowers, Leigh would appreciate a donation to the Calgary Humane Society, any ocean foundation, or the Canadian Cancer Society

Sincere thanks to everyone who has reached out and supported the family in so many ways over the last few days. Leigh would be truly humbled to know that he was deeply loved and cared for by so many.

There will be a private celebration of life at a later date.

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