OTTAWA - Ottawa Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson is hoping something positive comes from the darkest moment in his family's life.
So, despite Ottawa's on-ice struggles this year, the club's game Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers holds plenty of importance following the suicide of his 14-year-old daughter, Daron, in November.
The contest will mark the first Do It For Daron Youth Mental Health Awareness Night, an event that will highlight issues surrounding mental health and suicide awareness.
“The key word is to try and find a positive,”Richardson said Thursday before the Senators flew to Buffalo to face the Sabres on Friday night.“As difficult as it is, some days are always going to be difficult and there's nothing you can do about it.
"But I think there's something that we can do on the positive side to move forward and to help others in the situation that we've been placed in. We don't want to be here, but we don't want anybody else to be here, that's for sure.”
Daron Richardson died Nov. 13 after attempting to hang herself. She was found by her mother, Stephanie, and rushed to hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.
Since then, it's been dark days for Richardson, who played 21 NHL seasons with Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Columbus and Tampa Bay before retiring during the 2008-09 season as a member of the Senators, his wife and their daughter, Morgan.
So Saturday's game is another step in the healing process. Daron was an avid hockey player, so it's natural the sport plays a big part in it. There will be information booths set up at the arena and there will be merchandise sales designed to raise money and awareness over the issue.
Players from both teams will wear stickers on the helmets featuring the DIFD initiative's purple heart—Daron's favourite colour.
Richardson said the family continues to receive overwhelming support from friends and strangers, as well as the hockey community.
They still don't know why Daron took her own life. Richardson said she'd made a smooth transition to high school and in the days leading up to her death, they'd gone to parent-teacher interviews and met with her hockey coach and everything seemed fine. The family had always kept an open and honest dialogue with her when it came to life, including teenage social pitfalls such as drinking, drugs, sex and bullying.
“She was an outgoing child, she probably talked at times a little too much,”Richardson said.“With mental health, with suicide, there's always a dark picture painted.
"Well, there's not always a dark picture painted.”
“She left a note, but it was full of love, just like her e-mails and pictures and everything,”Richardson added.“Obviously, you have to do an investigation when something like this happens and . . . everything was filled with love, which is something that I think we've grasped a hold of. Hopefully, she's in a good place now and has no more pain.”