Sunaya Sapurji

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Sunaya Sapurji is the junior hockey columnist for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Sunaya previously worked at the Toronto Star for 10 years as a copy editor and writer covering the Ontario Hockey League.

  • Some questions will never be answered in Terry Trafford tragedy

    Family members react after a funeral service for Saginaw Spirit OHL hockey player Terry Trafford in Toronto, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.The Toronto native's body was found last Wednesday in his SUV in a parking lot in Saginaw Township, Mich. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

    SAGINAW, Mich. — Jim Paliafito stands in the parking lot outside of the Dow Event Center, asking one question, over and over again. It’s a question that will never be answered.

    “Why?” asks the general manager of the Saginaw Spirit, choking up.

    “It’s the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night and the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning.”

    “Why?”

    Why did Terry Trafford take his own life after being cut from the Ontario Hockey League club for a violation of team rules, ending a stay of four years with the Spirit?

    Less than two weeks after Trafford’s death in this city of close to 51,000 residents, Paliafito, head coach Greg Gilbert and team president Craig Goslin sat down with Yahoo Sports in a boardroom at the Dow Event Center to answer some of the questions about the 20-year-old’s final days.

    Goslin, who is a part-owner of the Spirit and was billeting Trafford until his release from the team, would not say what Trafford was being punished for – only that

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  • Junior hockey needs overhaul when 'it's not easy to ask for help'

    Pallbearers carry the casket of Saginaw Spirit OHL player Terry Trafford after his funeral service in Toronto, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
    The memory Connor Brown keeps closest to his heart these days is the one involving his friend Terry Trafford. The pair first met when they were minor hockey teammates and spent four years playing together as kids.

    “One time I went over to his house and hung out with him all day,” said the Erie Otters captain, now 20. “We were young, so I think we were playing with his slot cars. It’s just a little memory, but it’s something that sticks out in my mind about him.”

    Terry Trafford was laid to rest on Tuesday at a service in his hometown of Toronto.

    Trafford’s body was found on March 11 in his truck. Police determined the Saginaw Spirit forward died of self-inflicted asphyxiation. The 20-year-old had reportedly suffered from depression and had been distraught over being cut by the Spirit after four years of Ontario Hockey League service.

    Brown, like so many others, is wondering how this could have happened to a guy known for his big smile and happy demeanor.

    “It becomes an all-or-nothing

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  • Terry Trafford’s former teammates remember a prankster and a teammate that always had their backs

    Every junior hockey team has a prankster. In Saginaw, it was Terry Trafford.

    He was the player who would hide water cups in shin pads and go to the rink extra early to unscrew the hooks holding up his teammates’ skates in the Spirit dressing room.

    “He would always take my scissors and tape them up somewhere where I couldn’t find them,” said former Saginaw teammate Brandon Archibald. “He always did it for fun and it was good for team morale in the locker room – he was a good locker room guy.”

    Trafford was also the first player to welcome newcomer Gregg Sutch after a trade brought him to Saginaw. Sutch remembers walking into the Spirit room for the first time and being greeted by the face of his soon-to-be linemate and eventual dear friend.

    “He just sat there with this goofy smile and said, ‘Hey, I'm Terry Trafford’," recalled Sutch. “He put his hand out to shake . . . just a genuinely friendly guy.”

    Even after Sutch, now 22, graduated from the Ontario Hockey League, he and Trafford kept

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  • Saginaw Spirit forward Terry Trafford found dead

    Trafford played four season with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit (OHL Images)Trafford played four season with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit (OHL Images)

    Friends, family and the hockey community are mourning the loss of Saginaw Spirit forward Terry Trafford after his body was discovered on Tuesday evening. The Ontario Hockey League team said it had been notified by the Michigan State Police that the body was that of the 20-year-old Toronto native.

    "Our deepest condolences are with Terry’s family and his friends both in Ontario and Michigan," said the team in release. "Terry played on our team and was a member of the Spirit family for the last four years and he will be missed."

    A cause of death has yet to be released by Michigan State Police, who are still investigating.

    OHL commissioner Dave Branch also released a statement in which he said counseling would be made available to all teams in the league. The OHL also postponed Saginaw's game against the Soo Greyhounds scheduled for Wednesday night.

    "We will work closely with the Saginaw Spirit to provide any support required to the players and staff during this very difficult time," said

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  • Spirit confirm Trafford had been suspended for violating rules

    Trafford was last seen leaving the Spirit's home rink on March 3 (OHL Images)

    As the search for missing Saginaw Spirit forward Terry Trafford continues, more details regarding his status with the OHL team are coming to light.

    On Monday, Trafford's girlfriend, Skye Cieszlak, told Yahoo Sports that the 20-year-old Toronto native had been sent home by the team for disciplinary reasons. On Tuesday, Saginaw Spirit president Craig Goslin confirmed that Trafford had indeed been sent home for a "rule violation."

    "He was sent home for a violation of rules," Craig Goslin said Tuesday, March 11.

    Goslin did not elaborate about the violation but said Trafford was not necessarily cut from the team for good after the rule violation.

    "That would have been up to Terry," Goslin said. "He'd have to change his behavior and make some adjustments.

    "He was on the roster." (Saginaw News)

    According to Cieszlak, Trafford was upset and told her that he believed his four-year junior career in Saginaw was over.

    “When I spoke to him he was completely devastated because he told me that the

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  • Friends, family 'devastated' as search continues for Terry Trafford

    Terry Trafford of the Saginaw Spirit has been missing since March 3. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
    As the search continues for missing Terry Trafford, his friends and family are growing more concerned. The 20-year-old Saginaw Spirt player has not been seen or heard from since last Monday.

    “His family is devastated,” said Skye Cieszlak, Trafford’s girlfriend of four years. “My family is devastated. Me, myself, I’m miserable.”

    On Monday morning, while speaking with Yahoo! Sports, Cieszlak and her family were en route to a Saginaw police station to double check that a missing persons report had been filed with local authorities. On Saturday evening, when contacted by a reporter about Trafford’s disappearance the officer on the Saginaw County Central Dispatch night desk had no knowledge of a report being filed.

    “I know everyone is saying that the Saginaw police are involved but I want to make sure,” said Cieszlak.

    Trafford had been seen last at the Dow Event Center, the home of the Spirit, on March 3. It is believed he was heading back home to Toronto, but Toronto Police Const. Victor

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  • OHL ups the ante, makes significant changes to player benefit packages

    OHL commissioner David Branch awards the Memorial Cup to the Windsor Spitfires in 2012.
    There are new contracts being sent out and signed that will usher in some big, new changes to the Ontario Hockey League.

    Yahoo Canada has learned that the two most significant amendments to its current program for players focuses on the OHL’s education packages and a new monthly reimbursement plan – covering a number of items like gas, clothing and other incidentals like food – for up to $470. OHL commissioner David Branch, said the initiatives were ratified by the league’s board of governors in August and are now being implemented.

    “We are constantly, regularly, always challenging how we can improve things for our players on and off the ice,” Branch told Yahoo Canada on Thursday. “We recognize that they are the most important people in the game.”

    According to Branch, under the new expanded benefits package, players will now have extra time for using the money they receive for post-secondary education. Previously the league had given players 18 months from their last game played to use

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  • Sarnia's Anthony DeAngelo suspended for slur directed at teammate

    Sarnia Sting defenceman Anthony DeAngelo. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
    Sarnia Sting defenceman, Anthony DeAngelo, hasn’t played in two weeks. The last time he saw the ice was during a game against the Guelph Storm on Jan. 31. Up until now, the word had been the talented blueliner had been serving a team suspension issued by head coach Trevor Letowski.

    It’s not the first time a player has been disciplined by a coach and it won’t be the last. The situation, though, has been cloudy with Letowski dancing around why exactly he’s decided to sit the highly touted NHL draft prospect.

    Those clouds parted on Friday, when the Ontario Hockey League announced they had suspended the native of Sewell, N.J., eight games for violating the league’s harrassment, abuse and diversity policy. It's the second time this season the 18-year-old has been suspended for contravening the rule which attempts to keep homophobic, racist, sexist, and the other derogatory language used by small minds – out of the game.

    The minimum suspension for this infraction is five games. Recently,

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  • Size matters: Are small towns being pushed to the OHL's fringes?

    Owen Sound Attack forward Mike Halmo (28) hoists the J. Ross Robertson Cup after winning the 2011 OHL title in Mississauga

    There was a time when the small-market franchise was considered the lifeblood of junior hockey. In many cases they were the only game in town. It was a cheap night out and something many families could readily afford.

    Teams were run more like mom-and-pop local stores. In the new OHL landscape, however, more and more franchises are being run like Supercentres in big, state-of-the-art arenas. For some it’s a big, profitable business. For the rest it’s a daily grind to stay in the black and still ice a competitive team.

    No one knows this balance better than the Owen Sound Attack.

    The Attack play in the OHL’s smallest market with roughly 22,000 residents -- though that number almost doubles when you factor in the neighbouring townships. Still, the 3,500-capacity J.D. McArthur Arena is regularly more than 80 per cent full. The team is competitive and won an OHL title in 2011.

    “We have to do things smarter because we’re smaller,” says Attack president and part owner, Dr. Bob Severs. “That’s the

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  • Ciccarellis put Sarnia Sting up for sale

    Sarnia Sting head coach Trevor Letowski behind the bench

    There was big news in the Sarnia Observer on Friday. The Sarnia Sting have been put up for sale by the Ciccarelli family, who are apparently tired of losing money in their hometown.

    The story might as well have read:

    For Sale: One 20-year-old hockey franchise located in Sarnia, Ont. Currently a money pit, but still has very good investment potential. Haven't made the second round of the playoffs since 2007-08. Definite fixer-upper in desperate need of some hockey TLC. Price negotiable and could possibly include arena management if interested. Local buyer preferred.

    The Sting have been languishing for years and, as a result, the fan base has eroded. Gone are the days when people would pay just to see the likes of Steven Stamkos skate in Sarnia. This year's team is second-last in the conference and three points out of the final playoff spot. They have a rookie head coach, Trevor Letowksi, himself a former Sting star, and a young team.

    A dressing room with promise, but fans and ownership

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