March 19, 2014

TORONTO (AP) -- Saginaw Spirit forward Terry Trafford was remembered Tuesday as a thoughtful, fun-loving young man who made everyone around him smile.

Several of his teammates on the Ontario Hockey League club wore their red and blue jerseys at the afternoon funeral service, which was held almost a week after Trafford's body was discovered in his SUV in a parking lot in Saginaw Township, Mich.

An autopsy determined Trafford died of self-inflicted asphyxiation. The 20-year-old Toronto native disappeared earlier in the month after being disciplined by the club for a violation of team rules.

Trafford's teammates and family members sat in the first two rows of the funeral home. A tall, single candle was lit beside the flower-draped casket, with one of Trafford's old hockey jerseys displayed beside it.

After a one-hour service, the Spirit players were the first to file out of the Ward Funeral Home on a chilly, sunny afternoon. Standing on both sides of the exit area, his teammates raised their hockey sticks in the air as the casket was carried to a waiting hearse.

Trafford enjoyed camaraderie with his teammates, helped in part by his love for a good practical joke. A soft smile spread across Justin Kea's face when he recalled how Trafford would try to rib the other players.

"He'd put clear tape on your skates so when you'd go out there you'd fall," Kea said with a gentle chuckle. "Or he'd unscrew a water bottle lid so it's just sitting there and when you go to take a drink, you'd drench yourself. Stuff like that."

Friends, family members and teammates were all trying to focus on the positives, but Trafford's death left many struggling to come to terms with how this could have happened.

Most of the players in attendance spent the past four seasons playing with Trafford. The team was joined by coaches and the ownership group at a visitation last Sunday.

Trafford was last seen the morning of March 3 at the team's home arena.

"It doesn't make sense," Kea said. "Sure, everybody wished they'd knew. But I don't really know."

The OHL postponed Saginaw's game last Wednesday so the team could mourn his death.

Last Saturday, Spirit players wore "TT16" stickers on their helmets in honor of Trafford in their first home game since his death. A moment of silence was observed before the game against the London Knights and a video montage was played on the scoreboard.

Team chaplain Chuck Jacobson said the players are supporting each other at this difficult time.

"There's no playbook on how to deal with it other than we rely on the friendship and brotherhood that we have with one another," he said. "These guys (are) sticking together, supporting each other, we don't want to isolate ourselves ever."

Trafford had 29 goals and 49 assists over his four seasons with the Spirit. He had eight goals and 24 assists this season.

Team president Craig Goslin said everyone is grieving right now.

"Today is just a day to honor Terry's life and to be here for the Trafford family," Goslin said. "Our hearts just break so badly for them right now and our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Saginaw will open the OHL postseason March 21 against the Erie Otters. The Spirit players will honor Trafford by wearing black patches on their uniforms for the playoffs.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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