Family tragedy weighing on Stoner

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 24, 2011 - 11:57 PM

He mingled with Wild fans weeks after his older brother's death, still hurting but attempting to carry on.

Clayton Stoner remembers looking at his cell phone and having a "bad feeling."

Visiting his parents and brother five hours from his home in Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, the Wild defenseman went for a workout on May 6.

But news travels in the tiny, tight-knit logging community of Port McNeill, B.C., so Stoner had caught wind that something had happened out in the bush.

He didn't worry, until he noticed that he missed a call from his brother's wife, Carolann.

The tragic news on the other end of the phone will change his life forever. Stoner's older brother, Luke, had been killed in a logging accident.

"So unexpected, so surreal," Stoner, 26, said after signing hundreds of autographs for appreciative Wild fans at the team's Fan Fest in St. Paul on Friday. "Even right now, it's tough to talk about. I should probably talk about it more. It's tough, especially if you see my parents and how close my family is. I don't know. It's indescribable pain."

Ken Stoner has worked as a logger since he was a teenager. Luke Stoner was following in dad's footsteps.

The two were falling partners, and on this morning Ken and Luke Stoner were in a remote area along Manhatta River near Port Alice, B.C.

"They say it's one of the top three most dangerous jobs in the world, especially on the West Coast. The trees are much bigger there," said Stoner, his eyes watering. "My brother works with the power saw. They were up in the mountains falling but not in sight of each other. My dad called him on the radio and didn't get an answer.

"He had to go over, and that was it."

Hours from civilization, Luke Stoner was finally airlifted off the mountain.

It was way too late. Luke Stoner was 30, leaving behind his wife, almost 2-year-old son, Kade, and another child on the way next month.

"Something like this happens, the whole town hurts," Clayton Stoner said. "There's only a few thousand in Port McNeill, and the whole town was there. It was a pretty incredible service, and that meant a lot to me and my family."

Stoner recalled how a week later, his former teammate, Derek Boogaard, died in his Minneapolis home.

"It's like the tragedy with Derek," Stoner said. "It's just not fair. If you take something from it, I guess that's the only way something good could come from it. Mine is that I really appreciate my friends and family even more now.

"I think about [Luke] every day. Even when I work out, he's always on my mind."

Stoner said his family has been flooded with support, including from many Wild fans who donated money to Luke's wife. Stoner wanted to make sure to thank those fans.

"It's a real tough go for her and it's going to be a tough go for her," Stoner said.

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