When the Toronto Maple Leafs took to the ice against the Flames in Calgary Tuesday night, they were missing their long-time captain Dion Phaneuf, who will no longer sport the blue and white after being traded to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday morning.
Many of the players told reporters in their Calgary locker room that it was a big surprise to wake up to the news that they'd lost the 30-year-old defenceman in a nine-player deal.
"He was a great guy, he was loved by everyone on his team, and yeah, it came as a little bit of a shock for sure," said right winger Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau.
"I mean it's a shock. You know when a trade like that happens, you know it's not really expected," said 21-year-old Morgan Rielly, who learned a lot from Phaneuf as the team's youngest defenceman.
Leafs goaltender James Reimer has known Phaneuf for a long time. They played junior ice hockey together as part of the Western Hockey League on the Red Deer Rebels before making it to the NHL.
Reimer said it's sad to see him go, but wishes him all the success in the world.
"He's been a great captain and a real good defenceman in front of me," said Reimer.
But the goaltender says it's Phaneuf's competitiveness that will be missed most.
"He was a guy that always brought it everyday," said Reimer.
Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock echoed that sentiment and emphasized the big influence Phaneuf had on the team.
"He did it right when he wasn't at the rink, and he did it right at the rink, and he did it right in the weight room, and he did it right with the coaches and he did it right with his teammates," said Babcock.
The head coach said trading his club's captain was a hard decision for the Leafs organization, but a good one for Phaneuf's future.
"The problem for us, Dion is ready now to win, and we're not ready to win," said Babcock.
Babcock says it's a tough day for the players, but he wants someone to step up and take on the leadership role Phaneuf provided to the team.
Morgan Rielly said it's not going to be up to just one player to fill Phaneuf's skates.
"It's going to be a group effort and we are ready for it," said Rielly.
"We have guys in this room that can take on leadership roles on and off the ice. I mean I think we'll be okay, but it always hurts when you lose a guy like Dion."