Wearing a memory

Robin
Robin Short
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Bragg keeps a reminder of fallen captain close to his heart

It's been almost four months since that horrible Monday morning when a hockey team - and an entire city, for that matter - was stunned and saddened by the sudden death of a healthy, 19-year-old hockey player.

But every day, Matthew Bragg and the others who made up the Windsor Spitfires hockey team last season wear a constant reminder of Mickey Renaud, the beloved Spitfires captain who collapsed and died and his family's Tecumseh, Ont. home Feb. 18.

Newman's Cove native Matthew Bragg displays the T-shirt he regularly wears in remembrance of Mickey Renaud, his friend and Windsor Spitfires teammate, who died earlier this year at the age of 19. - Photo by Robin Short/The Telegram

It's been almost four months since that horrible Monday morning when a hockey team - and an entire city, for that matter - was stunned and saddened by the sudden death of a healthy, 19-year-old hockey player.

But every day, Matthew Bragg and the others who made up the Windsor Spitfires hockey team last season wear a constant reminder of Mickey Renaud, the beloved Spitfires captain who collapsed and died and his family's Tecumseh, Ont. home Feb. 18.

"We wear these chains," said Bragg, running his fingers over a pewter cross and another pendant inscribed with Renaud's No. 18. "And every day I work out, I wear the same shirt, one we had made up for him."

It's a red T-shirt, complete with No. 18, the captain's C and the inscription, 'I'm the Sherriff', an expression Renaud was fond of repeating.

"The guy would do anything for you, anything in the world," Bragg says. "The players loved him, coaches loved him. He was outgoing, loved life ... I don't know."

Bragg is from Newman's Cove, another product of the Bonavista area that's spitting out hockey players at a steady rate of late.

There's Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadiens - who will be an unrestricted free agent July 1 - Ryder's younger brother, Daniel, who remains a Calgary Flames prospect even after walking out on the Flames' AHL team last season, and Adam Pardy, another Calgary prospect.

Locally, Bonavista's Freddy Diamond backstopped the C.B.N. CeeBee Stars to the last three Herder Memorial Trophy championships.

Bragg, a speedy centre who prides himself for his defensive play, is an undrafted free agent, but hopes to hook a tryout with an AHL club in the fall, with an aim of beginning the 2008-09 season in the ECHL.

"I was going to head down this year, but I didn't have a P1 (work) visa," he said recently. "That would be my last option, the ECHL. Europe is always an option for me."

Bragg will be working hard this summer in preparation for training camp and right there with him will be the spirit of Renaud.

Renaud, a 6-3, 220-pound forward, was a Calgary Flames draft pick who, according to Bragg, worked hard at everything he did, in games and at practise.

"He did everything the right way," Bragg said.

Over 1,200 mourners turned out for Renaud's funeral.

The Spitfires returned from a Sunday afternoon game in Owen Sound on Feb. 17. A group of Windsor players - Bragg included - headed to a Tecumseh Boston Pizza to meet up with Renaud and some of his buddies.

"We had a few laughs and said, 'See ya later,' and that was it. Just like any other night."

The next morning, Bragg and his roommate, Elgin Reid, were the last to arrive for practice and the last to learn the tragic news.

"I think I fell over," he said. "It's a shock, right? It was crazy.

"For days after, it was terrible. I flew back home for a couple of days, just to get out of Windsor. The whole city was almost shut down because everyone knew Mick."

The Spits went 8-0-2 in their next 10 games, but quickly ran out of steam. Windsor lost its first-round playoff series to Sarnia in five games.

As he embarks on what he hopes is a pro hockey career, Bragg will remember Renaud, and take inspiration from his friend and teammate.

"He was a role model," Bragg said. "So you look at him and kind of try and follow the same path he followed."

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Tecumseh Boston Pizza

Geographic location: Bonavista, Tecumseh, Windsor Calgary Europe Owen Sound Sarnia

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