NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. - It has been a painful few months for Saskatchewan hockey dad Neil Lascelle as he tries to deal with the suicide of his 15-year-old son.
The North Battleford man lost Ashley in January. The boy killed himself at their family home.
"I got a kick in the gut and felt sick,” Lascelle remembered Tuesday. "When I got home at 3 p.m., I found a suicide note … it’s a vision I’ll never get out of my head."
To help the Lascelle family and others deal with their grief, Konnor Snyder, one of Ashley's friends and teammates, helped design a special crest for their Battlefords Barons hockey uniform jerseys.
The crest says "In loving memory Ash, 2002-2018."
"Me and Ash were really good friends off the ice, too. We hung out all the time," said Snyder. "Every time I’m on the ice I feel like I’m with him with the crest."
The plan was to keep the patches on the jerseys until 2021, when Ash would have fully graduated from the Barons system.
But the Battlefords Minor Hockey Association has ordered the players to remove the crests after this hockey season.
"I made it to symbolize Ash and help suicide awareness," said Snyder, 15.
Lascelle strongly disagrees with the association's ruling, noting there are patches on other jerseys commemorating other fallen players.
He and the players are pushing the association to change its mind about the crests. An online petition has so far collected more than 1,800 signatures.
"It felt like a slap in the face," Lascelle said. "It took the voice away from the kids. These kids wanted to do it."
Jenni Wuttunee, president of the minor hockey association, said the organization's bylaws are clear that prior approval should have been obtained. She said the board felt future players "should not be made to wear them."
Michelle Lascelle, Ashley's mom, said her son was pretty special and the crest was all about his friends.
"This is absolutely wrong," she said. "Minor hockey is supposed to be about the kids."
Gordon Whitten, manager of the Battleford Barons, said team members are proud to wear the patch and don't understand the association's decision.
Whitten said he is astounded. He wonders if the association is worried about honouring a player who killed himself.
"How do you say it? They made a decision and we have a suicide problem in town with youth right now," he said.
"They don't want other kids to see that and want to be remembered the same way and you know encourage other kids to take their own lives." (CJME, CTV Saskatoon, The Canadian Press)