Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Normally, an NHL team on the road can hardly wait for that plane ride home, but the Senators' latest trip back to Ottawa was not a happy one.
Hours after completing the second stop of a four-game road trip in Philadelphia on Monday, the Senators boarded an aircraft en route for Ottawa. The reason for the unexpected U-turn was to show support for a member of their own organization who is dealing with the ultimate tragedy; the loss of a child.
Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson lost his 14-year-old daughter Daron early Saturday morning after she succumbed to injuries sustained in a suicide attempt on Friday.
One can only imagine the pain and anguish Richardson and his family are going through at the moment. Unfortunately, many of us have already learned that when people we know are forced to deal with such horrible realities as the Richardsons are faced with presently, it is nearly impossible to find the right words to console them. That's because those words don't exist, they are always doomed to fall short of their intended goal.
Luke Richardson lost his 14-year-old daughter Daron early Saturday morning.
But, the Senators organization was right to realize that although their words can do little to ease the pain of their friends, their presence can speak volumes. That's why the Senators are flying back early from their road trip; to be with one of their own.
When Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray asked team leaders about whether they wanted to return home for Daron Richardson's Celebration of Life service Wednesday morning, there was no hesitation because the Sens knew they had to go home.
Nobody worried about the fact that after the service, the Senators will have to travel hundreds of miles south to play the Carolina Hurricanes later that night in Raleigh. All hockey-related concerns were put on hold while the club decided to do the only thing they could to help a grieving friend.
"To a man, (we thought) it was the right thing to do," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson told his team's website. "We want to be there for their family and help them out in any way we can. As far as the road trip goes, we'll just take it as it comes.
Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the Flyers also showed their support for Richardson and his family, holding a moment of silence for Daron prior to the contest. Richardson also has many friends in Philadelphia, where he played for five of his 20 NHL seasons as a tough, stay-at-home defenseman.
There is no telling how long Richardson will be away from the Senators, but of course, the club will give their assistant coach as much time as he needs to get back on his feet. Having the full support of his entire organization behind him at Wednesday's service at Scotiabank Place will not end Richardson and his family's sorrow, but being surrounded by those who care could help dull the pain for a few hours.
"We're a team, we need to show support and to a man, everyone wants to be there tomorrow," said Senators head coach Cory Clouston. "We have to realize that hockey is just a game. We do it for a livelihood and we do it for our jobs but in the big scheme of things, there are more important things."
While hockey is certainly far from Richardson's mind at the moment, he would be proud of how the Senators have been playing recently. Despite a 5-1 loss to a red-hot Flyers team on Monday, Ottawa has wins in five of its seven games this month and is tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for a team that only had two wins in its first eight games of the season.
But for now, the Senators will put hockey aside and come to the aid of a friend. It's hard to guess how well the team will respond Wednesday night against the Hurricanes, but the club's longtime captain isn't worried.
"This is an issue that's more important than the game and I'm sure we'll find enough energy to play that night and I think it might even be a good thing for the team," Alfredsson added.
Game night is normally the No. 1 priority for any NHL player, but that will not be the case Wednesday evening for the Senators. For a change, hours before the puck drops in Raleigh, they will already have handled their most important business of the day.