For Maple Leafs assistant coach Dallas Eakins, the sight of Graham Snyder in the Leafs dressing room yesterday brought the memories flooding back.
Eakins and the late Dan Snyder, Graham's son, were one-time teammates with the Chicago Wolves and won a championship together a number of years ago.
Like the rest of the hockey world, Eakins was shocked when Dan Snyder, a passenger in the car driven by then-Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dany Heatley, died from complications stemming from a single-vehicle crash in Atlanta in 2003.
Three years later, Dan's parents, Graham and Lu Ann Snyder, are on a tour of all 30 NHL cities to promote the work of the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation and, at the same time, offer some inspirational words on how to keep forging ahead in life after the tragic death of a son or daughter.
Travelling around North America in an RV, the Snyders' tour made its scheduled stop at the Air Canada Centre yesterday. Graham's appearance in the Leafs dressing room after the morning skate had players like Bryan McCabe and Darcy Tucker eager to shake his hand.
Then came a moment between Eakins and Graham Snyder, a quick opportunity to reminisce about Dan.
"It was just nice to catch up," Eakins said. "Both (Dan's parents) are so dedicated to charity. They are very inspiring people.
"They totally emulate who their son was. They have big hearts. They are tenacious toward the cause at hand. You can see where (Dan) got it from."
Along with providing scholarships for worthy kids, the Snyders also are rasing funds for the construction of the Dan Snyder Arena in their native Elmira.
Toronto was the 15th stop on the tour, which has featured more than its share of special moments.
"We met people in Atlanta who were with their son at a hockey clinic," Graham said. "They told us that Dan had once been at a clinic their son attended. They said instead of just standing on the side tooting a whistle, Dan actually skated with the kids and offered a personal side to teaching.
"It made us feel very good to hear that."
Not a day goes by, Graham admits, when he doesn't think about Dan.
"But you have to go on and stress the positive," he said. "That's what I tell people during our community talks.
For more on the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation, go to www. 37risingstars.com