FIFE Flyers players will swallow their sadness and take to the ice this weekend in honour of their grieving leader Todd Dutiaume.
The Elite League club – and the whole town – was in a state of shock on Tuesday when news broke that Dutiaume’s 38-year-old wife, Kelly, had died suddenly, along with the couple’s unborn twins.
Devastated Flyers players assembled at Fife Ice Arena that evening for a meeting called by assistant-coach Danny Stewart, who will temporarily take charge of coaching duties while Dutiaume is on leave.
And he urged the crestfallen team to stick together through the tragedy.
“There are a lot of confused souls in the dressing room,” said a solemn Stewart on Wednesday.
“Everyone here is close to Dutes but some of the guys have been around him since they were little kids, and grew up knowing him and Kelly.
“You really can’t imagine anything worse happening to somebody. All we can do is stick together through these tough times.”
Messages of sympathy and support have flooded into Fife from all over the UK and abroad leaving club officials overwhelmed.
“It’s a fantastic show of support for Dutes, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” Stewart said.
“The hockey world is a tight-knit family and whenever there’s a tragedy of this scale everyone rallies round.”
Stewart will lead the team this weekend, which will see the players staying overnight in England for an away double-header against Nottingham Panthers on Saturday and Hull Stingrays on Sunday.
He hopes the players can somehow put the horror week behind them and turn in two performances.
“On the grand scale of things, hockey doesn’t mean very much, but at the end of the day it’s our duty,” Stewart said.
“Our fans are passionate about the game, and Dutes is as passionate about it as anyone.
“The last thing he would want is for us to lie down and just get these games out of the way.
“We talked about it at the team meeting, and it will be tough showing up to the rink and putting it to one side.
“But we need to channel that emotion in the right direction, really stick together, and see if we can squeek out a win or two.
“Todd would want us to find a way to dig deep and come up with results.”