The Ottawa Senators welcomed one of their own back to the ice at Scotiabank Place today.
But this was no ordinary family reunion.
Seven weeks after tragedy struck his family, assistant coach Luke Richardson rejoined the Senators for a practice session. It's the first time the respected former NHLer has been with the team since his 14-year-old daughter, Daron, died tragically in mid-November.
"Putting the team stuff aside, it was really nice to just see him," head coach Cory Clouston said about having one of his trusted aides back in the fold. "It's been very tough for him, but he's looking forward to getting back with the team and just helping in any way possible to help us win. I spoke with him last night and he was really looking forward to just getting out on the ice and having a good practice."
Veteran blueliner Chris Phillips
, one of several Senators who suited up alongside Richardson during his final season as a player, agreed "it was great" to have Richardson back with the team.
"He's been through so much in the last little while," said Phillips. "To see him back on the ice with us ... it gives im a little bit more of a sense of normalcy. I'm pretty proud of him for getting back out there."
Senators general manager Bryan Murray talked with Richardson over the last few days in encouraged him to return to the team.
"I asked him to come back and help," said Murray. "I know he's a very, very well respected coach and person. He's had a tough time. To get him back around the team, I believe, will be a little bit of a spark for us. The players have tremendous respect for him. Just him being on the staff ... is going to be beneficial."
Richardson accompanied the Senators on their trip to Chicago for Friday's game against the Blackhawks at the United Center (8:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said he hopes the assistant coach's return is a positive sign for his family's situation.
"What it means, hopefully, is that they as a family have come some way in dealing with this," said Alfredsson. "I don't think you'll ever get over something like that, but it's good to see him. We know what a great guy he was, being a part of us as a player and coach before, and always a positive attitude in the locker room or at the rink."