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Islanders retire longtime defenceman’s number

Matt Baird is now an assistant coach for Kerry Park’s jr. B team
Matt Baird’s No. 5 was raised to the rafters of Kerry Park Arena on Sept. 10. (Courtesy of Matt Baird)

They say “once an Islander, always an Islander” but just to make sure, Matt Baird’s No. 5 jersey was hoisted to the rafters of Kerry Park Arena enshrining him in Islanders history forevermore.

“It’s rare to find an individual who is so well rounded and exceptional in so many different aspects of life,” said the Islanders. “The Islander jersey No. 5 represents a young athlete who we had the honour and privilege of watching for five years give everything he had to the community and sport that he loves.”

Baird’s No. 5 jersey was retired Sept. 10 prior to a 7-1 drubbing of the Port Alberni Bombers in exhibition play.

“It was pretty unreal experience,” Baird said after the big day. “I got surprised with it last year, the last regular season game against Peninsula, they announced it right as the game was starting, right before the puck dropped. It’s pretty neat. It’s a special feeling.”

During his five years with the Isles, and two as their captain, the defenceman played 159 games, netting 25 goals and 58 assists for 83 points. He added another seven points in 20 playoff games for the Islanders as well as appearing in 13 games for the BCHL’s junior A Port Alberni Bulldogs.

Raised in Cowichan Bay, Baird first attended Bench Elementary then Frances Kelsey school. Now a firefighter with the Cobble Hill fire department, Baird remains involved in the community, and particularly involved with the Islanders, no longer as a player but as an assistant coach.

He said team owner Brandon Cox offered him the job in the off-season.

“I wanted to stay involved in the organization and I thought it would be a great way to stay involved and to give back,” Baird said.