TORONTO -- I first heard that NHL player Nic Petan’s father Franc had died by suicide in the spring of 2019, while meeting with a hockey source in Denver, Colo.

It was between filming shoots with Canadian NBA star Jamal Murray, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, and I was spending a few free minutes on the hunt for another story.

At the time, Petan wasn’t a household name and I had not heard of him. He was the second round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and had been traded in February 2018 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It remained unclear whether Petan would flourish in the NHL. He was fast and crafty, but at 5’7”, he was considered small for an NHL player.

Petan was best known for scoring a hat trick in a game for Team Canada during the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2015.

I was intrigued by his story.

I wanted to know how Petan, his brother Alex, and their mother Rosanna had reconciled Franc’s death on Sept. 18, 2018.

How were they moving on? How does anyone move on after such a loss?

I wanted to offer a chance for them to pay tribute to Franc, and to highlight the issue of mental health, which for so many years had been stigmatized in the media.

This wasn’t an easy story to report.

How do you ask someone you have never met to open up and trust you with their most delicate feelings?

It was a months-long process. I connected with Petan’s agent Joe Oliver, who was based in British Colombia. I shared with Oliver some of the stories that producer Josh Shiaman and I had reported for TSN, stories where families had opened up to us about difficult situations.

In time, I spoke to Petan by phone and told him what I hoped to do and why I thought telling his story represented a public service.

He told me that the family was planning to host a golf tournament that summer in B.C. to raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association. It was the perfect chance to highlight how something good can come out of something so horrible.

I’ll never forget my interviews with the Petans.

Petan’s mother shared how he had shut down for weeks after his father’s death. He didn’t talk to anyone. Petan and Alex both struggled through some tough moments during their interviews and left both Josh and me feeling pressure to make sure we produced a story the family surely deserved.