It’s been a painful few months for Neil Lascelle.
The North Battleford man lost his 15-year-old son Ashley in January, after the boy died by suicide at their family home.
“I got a kick in the gut and felt sick, and knew I needed to get home,” Lascelle remembered.
“When I got home at 3 p.m., I found a suicide note … it’s a vision I’ll never get out of my head.”
“Ash” was a charismatic, friendly boy according to his father. He would often bring other teens to their home, especially if they needed a meal.
“He would come up to the dinner table and say ‘Dad, it’s not about the money,'” Lascelle said.
Unknown to his parents though, Ash had fallen into a dark depression and eventually decided to end his life.
Since that dark January day, Lascelle has decided to work to support Ash’s friends and hockey teammates to help them through their grieving process.
“I see Ash with his friends when I’m (at their hockey games),” he said.
“They’re helping me heal as much as I’m helping them.”
However, the team’s grieving process appears to have been interrupted by the Battlefords Minor Hockey Association (BMHA).
The midget Barons had sewn commemorative patches on their jerseys for the final games of their season, saying “In Loving Memory, Ash, 2002-2018.” The patch also featured the Barons logo and Ash’s jersey number nine.
“I made it to symbolize Ash, and help suicide awareness,” said 15-year-old Konnor Snyder, a close friend of the teen who came up with the design with his mother.
The plan was to keep the patches on the jerseys until 2021, when Ash would’ve fully graduated from the Barons system.
However, the BMHA voted in favour of removing the patches after this season. In their decision, the board said all jersey patches require prior approval.
Lascelle strongly disagrees with the ruling, noting there are patches on other jerseys commemorating other fallen players.
“It felt like a slap in the face … it just almost seemed like ‘Your son isn’t worthy,'” he said.
“It took the voice away from the kids. These kids wanted to do it.”
He added while the BMHA initially had concerns over the cost of the patches, an unnamed person and Tim Horton’s — Ash’s former employer — stepped up to cover the expenses.
Lascelle and the teenaged players are pushing the association to change their minds about the patches, with an online petition collecting over 1,800 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
“There’s no need to have a power struggle, especially when there’s somebody’s death involved and a grieving process for others,” Lascelle said.
As of time of publication, the BMHA had not responded to a request for comment.
‘We’re turning a deaf ear to them’
Lascelle also worries the patch debacle is dampening conversations over suicide in the Battlefords.
“We need to talk about it,” he said. “Silence is the only thing that fuels suicide.”
He noted there have been “too many” suicides in the community since his son’s death, which together prompted TSN’s Michael Landsberg to bring his Sick Not Weak event to North Battleford.
Lascelle took many of Landsberg’s messages to heart, and has made it his mission to help teenagers who need someone to talk to.
“If I have breath in my body, I’ll help,” he said.
“That’s what Ash would have wanted, for me to help his friends.”