A couple of weeks ago, Windsor Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud approached Tom Webster.
Drafted by the Calgary Flames last June, Renaud wanted to talk to Webster, a Flames scout, about what he should start doing to get the Spitfires ready for the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
"He knew he didn't have to worry about himself, but he wanted to get everyone involved," Webster said last night. "He asked a lot of questions. Making people feel important, that was a quality he had and we expanded on that. There were a lot of good ideas."
Renaud's teammates will have to look within themselves and use those qualities that made him a respected leader in their playoff charge.
Renaud, 19, died yesterday after collapsing at his parents' home in Tecumseh. Renaud was taken to Windsor Regional Hospital with no vital signs and attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful. An autopsy is set for today, Tecumseh OPP said.
Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel and defenceman Elgin Reid declined comment when reached by Sun Media, but in a statement, Rychel expressed the sorrow in the organization.
"This is the biggest tragedy in Spitfire history," he said. "Words alone cannot describe our pain at this time."
Pat Morris, Renaud's agent, was in disbelief last night.
"Everybody who knows Mickey is devastated," he said. "For whatever reason, he is gone ... I can't understand it or believe it. He just had that fibre in him. I liked him instantly."
The Flames picked Renaud, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound centre and son of former NHL defenceman Mark Renaud, 143rd overall last June, though it became clear they had the potential for a late-round gem on their hands. Renaud had 21 goals and 20 assists in 56 games this season, and had improved to plus-22 after he was minus-27 in 2006-07.
Renaud had good hands, but also possessed the kind of defensive awareness that allowed him to excel as a shutdown player. Though he was sixth in scoring on a vastly improved Spitfires team, his leadership and smarts were indispensible.
Webster, who lives in Tecumseh and was so close to Renaud that he said the teen's death was "like I lost a son," believed the forward would be in the Flames lineup one day. Morris figured a contract would have been done after this season.
"Mickey was always with a smile and he stood out in his peer group, in love of life and the game," OHL commissioner David Branch said. "This is absolutely incomprehensible."
Funeral arrangements for Renaud, who is survived by his parents Mark and Jane and two siblings, are pending. It was not determined if the Spits' next game, scheduled for Thursday night at home against the Plymouth Whalers, would be postponed.