A community in southeastern Saskatchewan is mourning the death of an assistant hockey coach described as a soft-spoken person who could find hidden skills in players and with a passion for life and the game.

Officials with the Estevan TS and M Bruins of the Saskatchewan AA Bantam Hockey League confirm that Mike Sarada, who was 44, was killed on Monday just north of the city.

RCMP have not released the name of the deceased, but say a man was pulled over on the side of the road and was struck by a semi after getting out of a vehicle.

Bruins head coach Tom Copeland says Sarada, who lived in Midale, was on his way to a team practice when he was killed.

Copeland says Sarada cared a lot about the team and did an excellent job of building better players.

Sarada, who worked as a grain merchant for Richardson Pioneer, spent five seasons behind the Bruins bench after playing senior hockey in Saskatchewan's Big Six league, where he won two championships.

'There's a lot of sadness around Mike's death. It's one of those ones that hits your community pretty hard.'- Tom Copeland, Bruins head coach

He had recently moved to Midale with his girlfriend and did not have any children of his own.

"There's a lot of sadness around Mike's death. It's one of those ones that hits your community pretty hard," said Copeland, who noted that Sarada was the first person he thought of to be his assistant when he took over as head coach.

Coach 'best-kept secret' in Sask.

"Mike was always there to calm us down on the bench and bring that better perspective. He was certainly good for me," he said. "I've described him as probably the best-kept secret in Saskatchewan as far as coaches go. He's touched a lot of kids' lives."

Copeland said outside of hockey, Sarada had the nickname of 'Grain Merchant Mike' and often presented cheques to a variety of community organizations on behalf of the Richardson Pioneer Foundation.

Messages of condolence have been coming into the Bruins' office from former players, parents and others in the hockey world who knew Sarada.

"It's one of those things where you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone, but I can say that it's sad for kids all over the place that have played for Mike over the years," said Copeland.

The Bruins have 16 points so far this season and are currently tied with Melville in the league's south division standings. They will play at home against Yorkton on Friday.