OHL player's death raises concern about availability of support services
Published Tuesday, March 18, 2014 8:34AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014 8:46PM EDT
The death of Toronto native OHL player Terry Trafford is raising concerns about the accessibility of mental health support services available to young athletes.
The former Saginaw Spirit player's body was found by police on March 11, inside an SUV parked outside a Michigan Walmart store. Trafford had been missing for more than a week.
Police said Trafford, 20, died of self-inflicted asphyxiation. A funeral for the former centre took place at Ward Funeral Home in Toronto Tuesday afternoon.
Prior to Trafford's disappearance, the young athlete had been disciplined by the hockey club. His girlfriend, Skye Cieszlak, previously told The Saginaw News that he had been sent home "for partying on a road trip."
News of Trafford’s death has thrown a spotlight on the availability of mental health services provided to OHL players, many of whom spend extended periods of time away from home and are under intense pressure to perform.
"There's no one really there on a regular basis to help the players when they're cut from the team, when they’re traded," London,Ont.-based sports writer David Langford told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.
"(Trafford's death) has brought out a lot of…maybe gaps in the system where I think every team should have a psychologist on retainer on a full-time basis."
The OHL declined an interview on Tuesday, but said in a statement that it provides a number of services to its players, including the "Players First Program," which addresses harassment and abuse in the league.
It added that "going forward, it is incumbent on the OHL to look at this tragedy and to see what lesson we can learn to continue to improve services and support for the most important people in the game, our players."
Trafford was remembered as a thoughtful and fun-loving prankster at Tuesday’s funeral, which family, friends and teammates attended.
After the service, Trafford’s teammates, dressed in their red and blue jerseys, lined both sides of the funeral home’s exit area and raised their hockey sticks in the air as the casket was brought outside.
Team chaplain Chuck Jacobson said that Trafford’s teammates are helping each other through a difficult time.
"There's no playbook on how to deal with it other than we rely on the friendship and brotherhood that we have with one another," he said. "These guys (are) sticking together, supporting each other, we don't want to isolate ourselves ever."
With files from the Canadian Press