Toledo Walleye defenseman Bryan Rufenach dreamed of traveling the world, and the young player's life ended tragically during a backpacking adventure in Europe.
Rufenach died on Monday in Switzerland. According to the Lindsay, Ontario, Post, the 23-year-old was with a childhood friend when he was electrocuted.
"Everyone is confused by it all right now," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. "The details aren't in yet. We do know that it was a tragic accident."
Rufenach played in 54 games last season for the Walleye and was the team's third-leading scorer. The young defenseman was affectionately known as "Ruffy."
"He was well liked by all his teammates," Vitucci said. "He always had a big smile on his face. The entire team's thoughts and prayers are with Bryan's family."
A native of Barrie, Ontario, Rufenach was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the seventh round of the 2007 NHL draft. He signed his first pro contract with the Walleye on March 25, 2011.
Rufenach was an offensive defenseman who liked to jump into the play. He scored 13 goals last season, which ranked third among all ECHL defensemen.
Walleye captain Kyle Rogers said Rufenach's teammates were stunned as word spread by text message on Tuesday afternoon.
"It's a tough time for us," Rogers said. "We are all good buddies. I have a lot of good memories with Ruffy. He was a great guy and a great teammate."
Rufenach told The Blade last November that he wanted to travel the world.
He also said his plan since childhood was to "move up and hopefully make it to the NHL." He said he had aspirations to become a stock broker after he quit playing hockey.
Vitucci said Rufenach had been traveling in Europe for the last month.
"He was with a boyhood friend and they were traveling from country to country," Vitucci said. "They were staying in hostels. They were set to come home at the end of this week."
Vitucci recruited Rufenach out of Clarkson University. Rufenach played in the final six games of Toledo's 2011-12 season.
Rufenach, who had scored a total of four goals in 33 games his senior year at Clarkson, scored four goals in one game against Chicago on Nov. 4.
He finished with 20 assists and had 34 penalty minutes for the Walleye. Rufenach was promoted to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on three different occasions, picking up two assists in a total of 13 games with the Griffins.
Rogers said Rufenach had a bright future.
"He was a young kid getting his feet wet, and he had a great year," Rogers said. "He was an all-around player. He had everything going for him."
When roster moves late last season left Toledo without enough forwards, Rufenach volunteered to move up to the offensive position.
"He was a very good skater," Vitucci said. "He had a good offensive knack, and he was a tenacious checker."
Rookie Joey Martin and some of his teammates expressed their emotions on Twitter.
"At a loss for words," Martin said. "Such a great guy..."
Forward Riley Emmerson encouraged others to "re-tweet for Bryan Rufenach, a prospect in the Red Wings system who lost his life."
"RIP Rufe you will truly be missed buddy!" Emmerson said. "A tremendous hockey player and even better person!"
Forward Paul Zanette said he was at a loss for words.
"Rest in peace Ruffy," Zanette tweeted. "Thoughts and prayers to the Rufenach family. We will miss you buddy."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.