February 20, 2008
Spitfires' season on holdRenaud inspired teammates
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media
One of the hardest things for members of the Windsor Spitfires to deal with right now is that at a time like this Mickey Renaud was the one they'd all turn to for answers.
Instead, one day after their captain, a Calgary Flames prospect, died suddenly at his family's home, the players he led to the most unlikely of turnarounds huddled without him at the type of team gatherings Renaud used to organize.
Somehow, someway, there's no doubt that despite being just 19 years of age he would've known what to do, what to say and how to guide his pals through the toughest concept to grasp in life: Death.
"We've lost a kid who meant everything to our organization and family," said Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner, speaking about Monday's tragedy.
"He's a local hero here and the face of the organization. He'd organize different things for the guys, was always out in the community. He was a guy that was always in the coach's room but never about himself -- it was always about a teammate. He is the heartbeat of what we've built here."
In short, Renaud would have made a fine Calgary Flame.
"Absolutely, he epitomizes everything I believe the Flames are about," said Boughner, a former Flame who, like Renaud, possessed incredible determination and leadership, if not the highest of skill. "The grit, hard work and character ... I know Darryl (Sutter), Mike (Keenan) a little bit and Jarome (Iginla) and Mickey's a guy who would fit right into that dressing room with all that heart and being the consummate pro. I can't tell you how much passion he had and how much he looked forward to playing for the Flames."
A fifth-round draft pick of the Flames last summer, Renaud certainly wasn't a cinch by any means to call Calgary home any time soon. He was a second-line forward at best. However, on the advice of Flames scout Tom Webster, a former Spitfires coach who "felt like he lost a son" Monday, the 6-ft.-2, 220-lb. centre was selected based on his heart -- a tool he used to lift a young Windsor team to a shocking fourth in the OHL.
And while only the family knows details of the preliminary autopsy findings, the cause of death won't be determined for some time.
One day after grief counsellors descended on the team's dressing room, the teary-eyed group attended a chapel service in Renaud's honour yesterday while local businesses rallied to offer endless support.
Tomorrow night's home game has been postponed, Friday is the funeral and Sunday's tilt is up in the air as some players have headed home.
Upon their return, all OHLers will wear a No. 18 sticker on their helmet and the Spitfires will wear a commemorative jersey patch.
In many ways, the heart that stopped beating will continue to provide inspiration for his teammates.
"We haven't even talked about how to go forward, we're still dealing with the loss," said Boughner.