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Published: Wednesday, 10/10/2012

WALLEYE SEASON PREVIEW

Walleye will honor the late Rufenach

Jersey framed in locker room, wears sticker with his number on helmets

BY JON SICOTTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A jersey of Bryan Rufenach is displayed in the locker room. The former Walleye died June 4 in Switzerland. A jersey of Bryan Rufenach is displayed in the locker room. The former Walleye died June 4 in Switzerland.
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No player will wear the No. 21 jersey this season for the Toledo Walleye.

That decree was made by the organization before the puck drops on the season for Toledo, four months after Bryan Rufenach's accidental death June 4 in Switzerland.

Rufenach -- who played in 54 games and scored 13 goals for Toledo last season and started with 11 games -- will have his number memorialized this season by his teammates with a No. 21 sticker on their helmets. He also played for Toledo in 2010-11 after finishing his college career at Clarkson University.

The team also has his jersey framed in the locker room.

READ MORE: 2012-13 Walleye Season Preview

"A better part of his pro career -- although short -- was here in Toledo. We would like to play our respect any way that we can and I think this is a nice way they have chosen to do so," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said.

A ceremony is planned for the opener Oct. 13 against Kalamazoo at the Huntington Center to honor the defenseman. The Walleye have invited his family from Barrie, Ont., to join in the memorial.

"I can't even imagine what his family has gone through," Vitucci said, "if there is anything that we can do to make that situation a little bit better for them, we are honored we can do something."

Toledo defenseman Bryan Rufenach was electrocuted while traveling in Switzerland. Toledo defenseman Bryan Rufenach was electrocuted while traveling in Switzerland.
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The team will present a framed jersey to his family and the squad. A member of Rufenach's family will drop a ceremonial puck between Toledo captain Kyle Rogers and former Walleye defenseman Kyle Page, who now plays for Kalamazoo.

Rufenach was electrocuted after touching an overhead power line at a train station in Grindelwald, Switzerland. He had been backpacking across Europe with a friend.

An up-and-coming young defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings organization, Rufenach's Grand Rapids' Griffins No. 44 jersey hung in the rafters of Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich. ,during a prospects camp in July. The team made July 10 during the camp "Bryan Rufenach Day" as some of the proceeds went to help fund the Bryan Rufenach Memorial Skills Camp. The camp was started last year by Rufenach for young players.

"I thought it was a fantastic thing for them to do that," Vitucci said. "We are fortunate in the hockey world as it is such a tight community and there are a lot of classy people in the sport of hockey. It's good to be associated with it at this level."



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