Richardson turning pain of daughter’s suicide into help for others

Islanders assistant coach generating support for movement to transform youth mental health

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — The pain will never go away for New York Islanders assistant coach Luke Richardson.

It’s been seven years since his daughter, Daron, took her own life at the age of 14. Her family didn’t know then why she committed suicide on Nov. 13, 2010, and they don’t know now. Richardson, his wife, Stephanie, and their daughter, Morgan, know it’s an answer they’re never going to get.

"We have our own psychiatrist that we go to now, and he said the biggest question will never be answered, and it’s ‘Why?’ That’s hard to live with, but that’s something you cannot spend your whole life searching for, because you’re not going to find that answer," Richardson said. "You have to find different ways to deal with it.

"It’s definitely difficult. The Christmas season is tough, birthdays (Daron’s is Feb. 8) are tough, the time of the year that we lost Daron is very tough. We have challenges all the time, but the support staff that we have with our own tight family, close friends, old teammates like Doug and Kelly and Freddie. Amazing. That’s why we’re still here."

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After playing together with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1990s, Doug Weight, Kelly Buchberger and Fred Brathwaite are Richardson’s teammates again, albeit in a different capacity; Richardson, Buchberger and Brathwaite all joined Weight’s staff in New York prior to this season.

It’s that tight-knit hockey world that was there for Richardson, then an assistant with the Ottawa Senators, and his family at the time of Daron’s suicide. Rather than keep Daron’s funeral services private, the family decided to have a public service at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. More than 5,000 people attended.

"We were in emergency at the hospital, and they had a psychiatrist come in that was on call," Richardson said. "We ended up knowing him, just by friend of a friend. Right away, we were instantly worried about Morgan and Daron’s friends, because it’s that tight of a community. When things are kind of unraveling, we’re like, ‘What do we do next?’ There’s obviously a lot of shock.

"If we publicly say the truth and what happened, and a lot of it is we don’t know what happened, is that going to hurt? Is that going to be like a copycat thing or is that going to create a turmoil in the community with her friends, with her family? He said, ‘Absolutely not. They’ve done studies on this; the proper information comes out and with some proper clinical advice, it helps. It helps the community, it helps your family, it helps everybody around deal with it.’ If other people are struggling, they realize there’s another way. It was an easy decision, if there could be one."

Weight was in the final stages of his playing career with the Islanders. He broke his back in a 5-1 loss at the Los Angeles Kings the day Daron died. But Weight’s pain paled in comparison to what one of his best friends was experiencing. He had to be there for Luke and his family.

Weight and his wife, Allison, traveled together to Ottawa from Los Angeles.

"I hate thinking back. It was a horrific six-hour flight," Weight told NHL.com. "My wife was crying. It was a bad time. We just wanted to get out and see them. It was a rough three days.

"From the time we got there, seeing the people and the emotions, you get so tired and overwhelmed. We were at his house … 500 of us. Just walking around and you’re numb from 7 to 8 and then 8 to 9. You’re telling some stories, and then 9 to 10 you’re out on the patio and you’re laughing with Luke. It’s just an amazing process, but to the direction they’ve went from there, it’s been amazing. Just an awesome thing they’re doing and they’re getting a lot of support from the hockey world as usual. It’s a great cause."

The cause is DIFD, also known as Do It For Daron. It’s a movement to inspire conversations and transform youth mental health. It encourages young people to talk openly about mental illness and to ask for help when needed.

Its symbol is a purple heart. Purple was Daron’s favorite color.

The Islanders will have their first DIFD Night on Friday when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Barclays Center.

"We’re just hoping it that it can maybe get some strides in the NHL and get to all the communities," said Richardson, who played 1,417 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning and Senators. "There’s so much tension from youth on our sport. The young boys and girls that love coming to the games and watching the games, getting autographs from their favorite players … if we can send some positive messages that way through the role models to young hockey players and fans around, I think it’s great. We’re really grateful that the New York Islanders are giving us this platform in the local area."

Proceeds from tickets purchased for the game on Jan. 5 will support DIFD and mental health initiatives in the Islanders local community.

"Sometimes there’s no bullying, there’s no signs, nothing," Weight said. "It’s healthy, happy, fun friends, not inclusive, nothing. Just a wonderful, bright … no signs. It’s scary as [heck]. For them to go through such an unbelievable tragedy and the way they’ve handled it as people just gives me more respect, if that’s possible for those three in that family. They’re great people and it’s a great cause."

Richardson knows he’s never going to get Daron back, but his hope is that DIFD will continue to make a difference.

"We’ve had some families come up and talk to us and say, ‘We’ve had the discussion at the breakfast table, and we were shocked on what we found, and thank you.’ It makes you feel good," Richardson said. "It’s never going to change our loss, but it makes it worth it.

"Everybody communicates, but to have that heartfelt conversation at the breakfast table or in the car, the places where you spend that intimate, quiet time with your family. Just ask if they are truly OK. Obviously, teenagers will answer yes like, ‘Go away.’ But then ask again, ‘Like, no really. Are you really OK?,’ and then really listen. Really listen. They’re not looking for do this or try this and to fix everything, they just want to know that you’re there and that you’re supportive."

NHL Winter Classic

From Miller’s OT goal for Rangers to frigid fun for Eichel, Sabres after practice

NEW YORK — The New York Rangers still are perfect in outdoor games.

The Rangers improved to 4-0-0 all time in outdoor games with a 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field on Monday.

Here are 10 memorable moments from the 10th Winter Classic:

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