Wednesday night when the Ducks took the ice before facing the Sharks one of the most touching, classy things I have ever seen an organization do happened. In honor of the late Ruslan Salei, the Anaheim Ducks, whom Salei played a majority of his career had one extra skater during the teams warmups and national anthem. Aleksandro Salei
It produced a picture that no doubt will become iconic in the hockey world, akin to John Jr saluting his fathers casket. As a new father myself I can’t look at this picture without swelling up with sadness, yet the strength of that young man shows the true character of his father through him.
The most chilling quotes I read over the summer after the crash was of Mike Babcock talking about a conversation he had with Salei’s wife “I talked to Bethann the other night, Rusty’s wife, and she was talking about her kids and remembering Rusty,” Babcock said. “They need a Detroit Red Wing jersey with Rusty’s name on it. They don’t have that. She was talking about taking her little guy to hockey the other night and him saying to her, ‘I’m not playing any more, papa doesn’t play any more, I’m not playing any more.’ What do you say?”
I’m glad to see the little guy is back on the ice, and I hope we all see him one day in the future as a player in the NHL.
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Salei did what so many veterans on the Wings have done before him, he embraced the role that was given to him and fulfilled the expectations set before him. He will be remembered by Kindl for his playfulness, as well as the role he played in grooming him for an eventual full-time roster spot. “I played with him for quite a bit, my first year he was always my partner so he would always make me a hard pass,” Kindl said. “Sometimes it would just disappear off my stick and end up in the air. It was so hard, he would do that on purpose to make sure I would lose control.” “Even in the warm-up, he would give me hard pass, so I couldn’t handle it.”
Though Salei was a skilled hockey player that touched the lives of the players he played with and the fans he played for, he was above all a family man, he left behind a wife and three young children. In a statement given by his wife it was clear how much he meant to them, and how proud they were of him. “Ruslan was the love of my life, and I’m extremely grateful to have our three beautiful children. He treasured his family life with us, and we miss him dearly.”
Salei was with the Wings for only one short year, but the impact he had on his teammates, coaches, and fans will last a lifetime.
Appreciate the things you have, you never know when they will be gone.