The death of Jordan and Heather Staal’s infant daughter has touched everyone in the Carolina Hurricanes organization.
And especially Staal’s teammates who are married and have children.
“Obviously it makes you really sad,” center Derek Ryan, a father of two, said Monday. “It’s tough to picture yourself going through that same situation. I’ve got kids and I’ve been through, not what he has been through, but I’ve been through the labor process with my wife and having children and I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow he and his family are going through.
“It just makes me all that more grateful for all I’ve been given and blessed with, with my family, and makes me feel really sad for Jordan.”
The Hurricanes put out a statement Sunday saying the Staals’ infant daughter, Hannah, had died and asked for privacy for Staal and the family.
Staal missed the Canes’ past two games – Friday at home against Pittsburgh, then Saturday at Detroit – and was not at Monday’s practice at PNC Arena.
“Obviously everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with Jordan and Heather and the family,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “It puts everything into perspective.”
Peters said Staal would get “all the time he needs” before rejoining the team, saying, “When it’s the right time for him and his family we’ll get him back.”
The Canes play the next two games on the road, facing the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and then the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Forward Lee Stempniak has three young children. Stempniak said he has been able to text with Jordan Staal but has not talked to him, while Stempniak’s wife, Lindsay, texted with Heather Staal.
Stempniak said his reaction to Hannah’s death on Saturday was “just a tremendous amount of grief and shock.”
“It’s just a terrible, terrible thing,” he said. “You try to empathize with what they’re going through and I can’t even fathom going through something like that.
“I definitely gave my kids an extra hug and an extra kiss before bed.”
Stempniak said one of his former teammates, Matt Stajan, went through a similar experience in March 2014 when both were with the Calgary Flames. Stajan and his wife had a son die after childbirth.
“That’s two times too many,” Stempniak said.
When Staal does return, Stempniak said it would be best to “just be there as a friend.” The two sit close to each other in the Canes’ PNC Arena locker room.
“You don’t want to poke or prod. You just want to be available,” he said. “Grief is different for every person.
“As for hockey, maybe it can offer a little bit of a relief for him to come and go on the ice for a little bit, maybe take it off his mind for a minute or two.”
Forward Justin Williams said the Canes needed to provide a “positive atmosphere” for Staal when he returns and be supportive.
“Help him through it if he wants to talk about it,” said Williams, who has two children. “And if he doesn’t, then you talk about something else.”
The Canes, who flew to Boston after Monday’s practice, are winless in their last five games. With Staal out of the lineup, Peters will move Sebastian Aho to center. Center Lucas Wallmark, recalled from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, also will continue to get a look.
“We will at some point get ‘Jordo’ back and that will help us,” Peters said of Staal. “You miss him, right? In the two games we didn’t have him, and all the situations he plays in and he’s not there, that’s an eye-opener. It’s also an opportunity for others.”