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Lake Superior State mourns the death of beloved equipment manager

Wes DeJong Jr., who had been a part of the Lakers hockey program since 2012, died unexpectedly at the age of 28.

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Lake Superior State equipment manager Wes DeJong Jr. poses with the WCHA's Jeff Sauer Trophy at Taffy Abel Arena on the campus of LSSU in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., following the Lakers victory over Northern Michigan in the 2021 WCHA postseason championship in Mankato, Minnesota, that season. DeJong died unexpectedly on the evening of Saturday, July 16, at the age of 28.
Contributed / Lake Superior State Athletic Department

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Lake Superior State University is mourning the loss of men’s hockey equipment manager Wes DeJong Jr., who died unexpectedly on the evening of Saturday, July 16, at the age of 28. The university did not disclose cause of death in its announcement .

"The LSSU campus community wishes to extend our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Wes DeJong," Lakers coach Damon Whitten, who is entering his ninth season in 2022-23, said in the announcement .

"Our campus, and especially those of us in athletics, will greatly miss Wes. He was universally loved across campus with his huge smile, quick wit, and total commitment to all things Lakers. For over a decade Wes lived his dream of being part of Laker hockey. He inspired us to put the team first, attack each day with good humor, and to find a way to get the job done. He will continue to inspire our department and Laker hockey."

DeJong started with the Lakers hockey program as a student manager in 2012. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in sports management in 2017, he continued to volunteer on the hockey staff for another two seasons before being hired as the equipment manager in 2019.

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His death has drawn an outpouring of support from across the hockey community beyond just Sault Ste. Marie and the eastern portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — from former Minnesota Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter to Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings.

Larkin reflected on meeting DeJong when the Lakers won the 2018 Great Lakes Invitational at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

DeJong’s fellow equipment managers and the Lakers he worked with have also posted tributes this week. The university held a memorial for DeJong on Tuesday on campus at the Victory Bell, which the Lakers hockey team rings after every home victory.

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According to the LSSU athletic department , the DeJong family has requested gifts be made to support the Lakers hockey program, in lieu of flowers.

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Lake Superior State equipment manager Wes DeJong Jr. hoists the WCHA's Jeff Sauer Trophy on the campus of LSSU in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, following the Lakers victory over Northern Michigan in the 2021 WCHA postseason championship in Mankato, Minnesota, that season. DeJong died unexpectedly on the evening of Saturday, July 16, at the age of 28.
Contributed / Lake Superior State Athletic Department

Related Topics: LAKE SUPERIOR STATE LAKERS
Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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