There was a familiar face on the ice Wednesday at Scotiabank Place and the Senators were happy to welcome him back with open arms.
Assistant coach Luke Richardson, a former teammate and close friend of many of the players, was on the ice for the first time since the tragic death of his 14-year-old daughter Daron on Nov. 13.
Not only did Richardson report for duty, he was also on board for the Senators’ charter to Chicago as they prepare to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Friday.
He returned at the urging of GM Bryan Murray, who has been a close friend of the Richardson family for years.
“I’ve talked to Luke for a few days. I asked him to come back and help,”
said Murray. “I know he is a very well-respected coach, a man and person. To get him back around the team, in tough times, he’s had a tough time.
“I believe it will be a little bit of a spark for us. The players have tremendous respect for him. Being on the staff and being in the meeting with me is going to be beneficial.”
The death of Daron Richardson, who took her own life, was difficult for everyone in the Senators family.
Luke Richardson has communicated with teammates but many hadn’t seen him since the tragedy.
The players returned to Ottawa in the middle of an eight-day road trip in November so they could lend support to Richardson, his wife Stephanie and daughter Morgan during a service for Daron at Scotiabank Place.
Richardson didn’t address the media on Wednesday. The Senators are going to give him a few days to get back into the mode of being part of the team before making that request.
He didn’t have to say anything. The players were just happy to see him on the ice helping move around pucks, sharing a smile with teammates and returning to be with his hockey family.
“We don’t even know what he’s been through the last little while, but to see him back on the ice with us gives him a little bit more sense of normalcy. I’m pretty proud of him for getting back out there,” said veteran defenceman Chris Phillips.
Richardson will take his perch in the press box as a spotter at the United Center Friday and then he’ll be back at Scotiabank Place Saturday as the Senators host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Senators family is hopeful this will be a positive step in what’s going to be a long road for the Richardsons.
“Hopefully they as a family have found a way of dealing with this,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “I don’t think you ever get over something like that, but it was good to see him.
“We know what a great guy he was as a player and coach before. He always has a positive attitude on the road or in the locker room. It’s great to see him back.”