The Windsor Spitfires paid tribute to late captain Mickey Renaud in a pre-game ceremony Thursday, as fans welcomed the Renaud family to the ice with a thunderous standing ovation.
Current Windsor head coach Bob Boughner and former coach and current Calgary Flames scout Tom Webster addressed the sold-out crowd of 4,400 in a pre-game ceremony to retire Renaud's number. Ontario Hockey League commissioner Dave Branch was in attendance.
Webster announced the establishment of an educational fund for Mickey's siblings, Remy and Penny Renaud, by the Flames.
The Spitfires went on to defeat the Sarnia Sting 5-0.
Renaud, a 19-year-old native of Tecumseh, Ont., collapsed at home and died suddenly as a result of a heart condition, known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, last February 18.
Renaud's death shocked the hockey world and the team immediately announced plans to retire his number this season.
"Mick realized great potential in the OHL and was a positive ambassador for the league," Mickey's father Mark Renaud told the crowd. "He was very to be a part of it.
"Mick is certainly here with us tonight. He lives on in our hearts ... in the hearts of his family and friends, teammates, coaches and fans, everyone whose life was touched by his. We are blessed to have known you Mickey, and are so very proud of you."
In other OHL action Thursday, Mississauga beat Peterborough 7-4 and Oshawa edged Niagara 3-2.
At Windsor, Ont., a jersey bearing Renaud's name and his number was raised to the rafters before the Spitfires and Sting played the last OHL home opener at Windsor Arena. The musical group Music Express, featuring Renaud's mother Jane, sang the national anthem before the game
Renaud's game jersey still hangs in his Windsor Arena stall and, just like last season, the players are wearing his No. 18 on their jerseys and track suits in his honour.
The Spitfires, the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League ratings, are expected to move into the $65-million Windsor Family Credit Union Centre sometime in early December.
Defenceman Ryan Ellis scored two goals and Andrew Engelage made 22 saves in the Spitfires' win.
Ellis appreciated the reaction from the crowd, and said it spurred on the Spitfires.
"I thought it was awesome, it just goes to show how much Mickey was loved and respected," he said. "Every time I think about him, it just fires me up, and I know the boys feel the same way. It was a great night and a great game, but we know have to keep the intensity and effort up all season.
"Mickey wouldn't demand anything less from us."
Rookie Ben Dubois, Adam Henrique and Dale Mitchell had Windsor's other goals.
Sting rookie netminder Shayne Campbell had to contend with 51 Spitfire shots.
The Spitfires beat the Sting for the second time in less than a week. Sarnia dropped a 4-2 decision in the season opener for both teams last Friday at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre.
Majors 7 Petes 4
At Peterborough, Ont., Michael Russo scored twice as the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors fired four unanswered goals en route to a win over the Petes.
Generals 3 IceDogs 2
At St. Catharines, Ont., Kory Nagy scored 1:55 into overtime to lift Oshawa to a win over Niagara.