Closure wasn’t possible, but the Calgary Stampeders hoped to offer comfort to the family and teammates of Mylan Hicks on Thursday.
The team held a private memorial service at McMahon Stadium for Hicks, a 23-year-old defensive back who was shot and killed outside a Calgary nightclub last Saturday.
The Stampeders wanted to share the memories of Hicks with his parents, Reggie and Renee Hill.
“I would think with them being here, they would like to hear ‘my son’s been doing what he’s supposed to do,’” safety Jamar Wall said before the service.
“Knowing he was here, handling his business, being a presentable young man, doing what he was supposed to do, I think that’s going to give them a little peace knowing that. It’s hard to say closure when you’ve lost your son.”
Citing exhaustion, Renee Hicks declined via a Stampeders spokesperson to speak to reporters after Thursday’s service that was closed to the media.
She and her husband had arrived in Calgary the previous day to retrieve their son’s body and return to Detroit.
“A lot of us haven’t met Mylan’s folks,” Stampeder head coach Dave Dickenson said. “We’re anxious to do that. We’ll have our team chaplain start things out, a message from the organization and then from the players too and of course his family.
“For us, it will be good to … I don’t know if closure is the right word, but certainly give him his due.”
Hicks, a Michigan State Spartan from 2011 to 2014, was on Calgary’s practice roster and had yet to appear in a game this season.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Michigan State and won Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles with the Spartans in 2013.
His sister Jazzmine Fowlkes told The Canadian Press this week that police had told her Hicks was trying to defuse a tense situation prior to the shooting.
Nelson Tony Lugela, 19, is charged with second-degree murder. He will appear in Calgary court Friday.
Gun violence in the United States routinely makes headlines in Canada, but not often the reverse.
East Lansing Journal sports columnist Graham Couch wrote Wednesday that “the sad irony of his shooting death is that Hicks escaped a city marred by gun violence and was living in a country where guns are nowhere near as prevalent.”
The Stampeders (11-1-1) depart Friday morning for Hamilton and face the Tiger-Cats (6-7) on Saturday.
The tragedy is testing the resilience and concentration of the top team in the Canadian Football League, particularly those Stampeders teammates who were with Hicks when he died.
“I think a lot of guys who are having trouble are the ones who have the images in their head and I don’t think going away anywhere is going to help that,” quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said. “I feel for those guys.”
Dickenson felt a road game could have some healing power, however.
“Everything is different,” Dickenson said. “We’re just all learning. Not really sure how to react. For me, I like being around the guys. I’m hoping they like the same. I’m anxious to travel together as a group and play a football game.
“It’s maybe not a top priority, but we understand our team needs to be ready and live our life. We will honour Mylan as a group this afternoon, but we will also try to make sure we do everything we can to play our best game and let the wins and losses take care of itself.”
Wall will don Hicks’s No. 31 in Hamilton. The Spartans will wear his No. 6 on their helmets Saturday at host Indiana State.
Wall expects his team to be galvanized at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday because “we want to honour him.”
“I feel like this is going to show a lot for us as a team with this type of tragedy. Are we still going to be focused?” the safety continued. “This is one excuse they might give us, but we don’t want it.
“We still think we have to come out here and prepare like we’re supposed to and that’s what we’re going to do.”