His official Ontario Hockey League picture shows a face that could not possibly be 20 years old. Boyishly handsome, Terry Trafford was the type of player that every team needs, a "glue guy" to steal a basketball term. He was skilled enough to be a top six forward, but also diverse and speedy enough to play on special teams or checking the other teams top line. In fact it was the speed that you noticed first with Terry Trafford. Few players possessed the pace and skating ability he was blessed with.
However, beyond the skill set, Terry Trafford was also ill. Not physically ill, but mentally ill. We see elite athletes and talented individuals like Terry Trafford at their best, playing the game that they love. They are blessed with such an abundance of physical strength, talent and skill we sometimes forget that they are susceptible to the same mental illnesses and self-doubt as everyone else in society.
A healthy scratch since February 17th it was reported that Terry had been sent home by the team for reasons related to team discipline. Then the news broke through social media that he had been missing for over a week. Friends, family and the hockey community alike frantically searched for the young man from Toronto who had worn the Saginaw Spirit jersey for four years and 221 games. The Terry Trafford story reached a sad and tragic conclusion when he was discovered in a WalMart parking lot inside the truck we had become familiar with through missing persons bulletins. A hockey community mourned as teammates, opponents through the years and friends eulogized and paid tribute to Terry. Calgary's Sean Monahan posted on Twitter, so did Scott Laughton, Michael DalColle and Connor MacDavid. The list goes on and one.
Its a cautionary tale really. In a sport like hockey where statistics measure the fine line between success and failure, and the window to the NHL is a small one at best, the pressure might get to even the strongest of character in some way. Being separated from the team Terry Trafford may have thought that the game that he had played since he was a young boy had been taken away from him, We really do not know.
I urge all general managers, coaches and assistant coaches to have a conversation with their players. Remind them that if they are feeling troubled in any way, that the door is always open if they feel the need to talk. There is no better time to reinforce that not just the team but also the hockey community is a tight knit family that looks out for each other.
Finally, I'd like to urge Bell to change their "Lets Talk" slogan to "Lets Keep Talking" . While a worthy endeavor, it lasts only a day and then we tend to move on feeling good that we sent a text or re tweeted a message. It is not easy to get people to open up about mental illness and it is not as simple as sitting down with someone and saying "lets talk".
There are many questions to ask about the passing of Terry Trafford. In a sense we all became teammates and friends with him as we all hoped for a better outcome. Right now the tragedy is too raw, too real, and too fresh. With time and the grieving process, maybe some things will become clear.
Rest in Peace Terry.