The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/06/12 at 08:19 PM ET
The Red Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye released statements regarding the untimely passing of Bryan Rufenach, a 23-year-old Wings prospect, and this evening, WWNY TV reveals that the circumstances of his passing are sadly as simple as can be:
University officials say 23 year old Bryan Rufenach, a draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings who played at Clarkson from 2007 to 2011, was on a backpacking tour of Europe when he touched an energized overhead line while attempting to board a train Tuesday and was electrocuted.
Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose penned a tribute to Rufenach and confirmed via 20min.ch‘s Nathalie Jufer that his passing was accidental, but not as simple as reported here. Here’s her story about his passing, translated (quite well) from Swiss-German:
The Canadian hockey player Bryan Rufenach, 23, was on a European trip. In the Berner Oberland through a little carelessness he came to an abrupt death. In his homeland, there’s sadness.
The 23-year-old, Bryan Rufenach, was with a friend from Kindergarten on a backpacking trip through Euorpe. One of the last stops was Grindewald, where the two checked in at the Mountain Hostel. At the end of the week they were to return home. This would not happen for Rufenach: In the night on Tuesday, the young Canadian was killed in Grindelwald by an electric shock.
He had climbed on a stationary train car with his buddy at the Grindelwald-Grund train station, and there he touched an overhead power line. His companion fought at the accident site to save Rufenach’s life—in vain. The athlete died of his injuries.
“The Whole team is distraught”
In Canada and the United States, Bryan Rufenach was no stranger: the 23-year-old from Eastern Canada began his first professional season with the U.S. team Toledo Walleye and was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. The shock about the Walleye-defender’s sudden death is great in the Walleye’s home town: “The entire team is distraught,” said Walleye head coach Nick Vitucci yesterday.
“We send our thoughts to Bryan’s family.”
On Twitter friends and teammates of the professional athlete expressed their grief: “He was a great guy. I’m still shocked,” said teammate Riley Emerson on Tuesday.
As for Roose’s tribute:
“He was a very personable young man,” Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said. “Everybody loved him, he was full of energy and just starting his pro career. He had a great college career and he was hoping to really get his feet wet in pro hockey this year.”
The 23-year-old defenseman played in 54 games last season for the Toledo Walleye, the Wings’ minor-league affiliate in the East Coast Hockey League. Rufenach, who played four seasons at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., also played in 13 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.
“Each year he got better and better and he really became one of the top defensemen in college hockey and then last year was his first year as a pro.”
In his last three college seasons, Rufenach led or tied for the lead in defensive scoring for the Golden Knights. A finance major, he was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Academic team following his sophomore season. Last year, Rufenach told the Toledo Blade newspaper that had wanted to travel the world, and once his hockey career ended he wanted to become a stock broker.
“He knew what he wanted to do, a very smart young man and very focused,” Nill said. “He had great hockey sense and very smart on the ice. He was a very big man, but he sure played hard, he was tough for his size.”
Wings center Cory Emmerton was drafted in 2006, a year ahead of Rufenach and the 2007 draft class. While Emmerton never got to know the former seventh-round pick, news of Rufenach’s death stirred some emotions.
“I didn’t know him very well, though I met him through development camps and stuff,” Emmerton said. “He was in college so he wasn’t always around. He just went to Grand Rapids and Toledo this year so I really didn’t get to see him too much. But I knew him and whenever you meet someone in the hockey world that passes at a young age it’s really sad. It doesn’t matter if you know them well; it’s never easy to see.”
Roose also compiled a slate of tributes to Rufenach from his Griffins and Walleye teammates.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.