OTTAWA — Erik Karlsson addressed the media for the first time Thursday night since the loss of his son, Axel, just over a week ago.
On March 20th Karlsson and his wife, Melinda, shared the tragic news that their son had been stillborn. It was the couple’s first child.
"I’m doing okay," said Karlsson after the club’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers. "It’s been an extremely tough time and a situation I never expected to be in. I just want to thank my teammates, this organization, this community, people around the league and people we don’t even know for giving us their support and our time to be ourselves and grieve.
"Looking back it meant a lot to us for all the people that reached out, people that we know and people that we don’t know. It helped us get through this a little bit."
Karlsson admitted that moving forward will be a difficult process. The young couple had shared their excitement from the moment they learned they were expecting.
"It’s going to take us a very long time to get back to normal but we’re going to do everything we can to stay as positive as possible," said Karlsson. "I think my wife has handled the situation better than I could have ever imagined and it’s not something that you can prepare yourself for.
"At the end of the day we really appreciate everything that everybody has done for us and helped us out as much as they possibly can and, at the same time, respected our privacy and the way we wanted to handle things internally. For that I’m extremely grateful to be in the position that I’m in.
"It was very public unfortunately. It’s not something that we wanted to go through and, at the end of the day, we appreciated everything from people that we know to people that we don’t know for reaching out and telling their stories and showing their support."
Karlsson missed two games before making the decision to return to the Senators lineup last Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"It’s been hard, it’s been hard to kind of get the motivation," said Karlsson. "At the same time, it’s been kind of a comfort zone to get back into routine and think about something else for awhile. At the end of the day, these guys mean a lot to me and when we go through something like this everybody gets together and they really embraced me and gave me everything that I need in this time. For me to just get back to normal and see everybody else behave normal has helped me a lot."
Senators coach Guy Boucher has been incredibly impressed with how the Senators captain has handled himself through this difficult time.
"Coming here for him, first of all he wants to do it and I think he needs also to feel he’s with the boys and contributing to what we need to do on the ice and off ice," said Boucher. "I’ve been impressed by his focus. It’s very difficult what he’s lived, but the fact that during games he could easily be frustrated, tired, irritated and everyone would understand, but he’s displayed a lot of focus."
Karlsson hasn’t travelled with the team and it’s unclear whether or not he will join the team on its final road trip next week.
Ottawa plays Saturday in Detroit before returning home to play its final game at Canadian Tire Centre on Monday against Winnipeg and wraps up the season with a three-game road trip.
"I’m going to go to Detroit (Friday)," Karlsson said. "I’m going to leave the house for the first time and see how it goes. My wife is still struggling a little bit. Overall, she’s doing fine physically which has been a relief. We’re going to take it day-by-day. That’s all we can do right now. We’re trying not to look too far ahead. As I said, I’m going to play Detroit and then I’m going to pay at home against Winnipeg and then we’re going to re-evaluate the last four days on the road."
The Senators made it clear from the start that Karlsson would be given all the time he needs as he and his family deal with the tragedy and will respect whatever decision he makes.