As many of you are already aware, today, February 18, 2012 is more than just another day on the calendar. Today marks the four year anniversary of the sudden and tragic death of Mickey Renaud. In the four years since the passing of the 19 year old Captain of the OHL Windsor Spitfires, the boys who played next to him and for him have found themselves spread across the world in more than five different leagues, some as breakout super stars, others still finding their stride but none of them forgetting the Captain they all looked up to.
Looking back over news articles from the days immediately following Mickey’s collapse and passing in his Ontario home, I find myself shaking my head at how unbelievable it all seems. Making my way through the years since then however; a story develops which seems nothing short of the things movies are made of. I came across an article written by Gare Joyce following the first game the Spitfires played in the wake of Mickey’s death. Few things in life, when speaking of death, are easy to stomach, and Joyce’s article is heart wrenching. He shares the scene in the locker room as the boys come in:
“Maybe they were making their entrances more quietly than usual for junior hockey players, but still there was chatter about NHL games the night before, about sticks and skates and cars, about the Arctic cold that made starting their cars dicey. Bradley Snetsinger, second-oldest player on the Ontario Hockey League’s second-youngest team, was watching C.J., the tow-headed son of assistant coach D.J. Smith, stick-handling a ball of tape while the Spitfires were getting ready for a game-day skate.”
Joyce continues to comment on the signs of tribute in the dressing room:
“Some were easy to put together. The empty stall with No. 18 hanging in it. The lantern with a candle burning in it, lit by the first player in the room and to be blown out by the last to leave. The white board at the front of the room, blank but for “18.” Other signs were tougher to spot. The necklaces around the players’ necks, 18 again, gifts from a local jeweller. For some, a freshly tattooed “18″ on their chests. And there was one sign of the memory of Renaud that you wouldn’t have caught without being told: A pair of enormous workboots with shoelaces as thick as fingers and reinforced soles that a nailgun couldn’t penetrate.”
A then 16 year old Taylor Hall shows his maturity as he speaks with Joyce in the article, and I couldn’t help but ask myself, ‘Is this the reason Hall has been able to handle the pressure and criticism he has faced since entering into the NHL?” But really, Hall’s story is a totally different post for a totally different day, so we’ll move forward.
What happened next is a testament to the resiliency of Hockey players, and how far they will go to honor those they love. The season following Mickey’s death, the Spitfires would not only win the Memorial Cup, they would make history, becoming the first team to come back from two initial losses in the round robin format and then make it through a Memorial Cup tie breaker game to win the championship. Throughout the season Mickey’s sweater had hung in the dressing room and during the championship playoffs it hung on the bench. The boys had won it in his honor. #FTB
The Spitfires would go on to win a second consecutive Memorial Cup the following season before facing major changes and restructuring. Every year, the Mickey Renaud Captain’s Trophy is awarded to the team captain that best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice as well as hard work, passion and dedication to the game of hockey and their community in his honor. Mickey’s death was ruled as a result of an underlying heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the same condition that was detected in Lightning draft pick David Carle a few months later, subsequently ending his Hockey career.
Renaud will be remembered tonight by the team he loved and played for and will forever be, the eternal Captain of. Renaud’s cousin Austen is the lead singer of a band called The Brilliancy, and I couldn’t help but find one of their songs inspirational and uplifting when thinking about the tough journey all of those touched by Mickey have been on since his death just four short years ago. Through blinding light there is a brilliant light…Mickey.
Check Out The Song Blinding Light Performed by Mickey’s Cousin below:
I encourage you all to read Joyce’s article found at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=joyce/080229
As well as one from Matt Sitkoff
Until Next Time Gongers, W.S.P., Remember Those We’ve Lost And Play Your Hearts Out For Them. RIP Mickey and Love and Comfort to Everyone.
Follow Me On Twitter Gongers @AmySnow17