Erik and Melinda Karlsson were married last year and announced in November they were expecting their first child in the spring. Karlsson had been posting on social media about his son's upcoming birth, most recently sharing a photo of him and Melinda on Feb. 19 with the caption "just me and my little family.''
Karlsson sat out Ottawa's 7-2 loss to Florida on Tuesday night. The team released a statement saying the Karlssons had "the collective thoughts and prayers of the Ottawa Senators organization, the city of Ottawa and entire hockey community.'' The team requested privacy for the family.
On Wednesday, Karlsson tweeted that his son, named Axel, was stillborn. "At this extremely difficult time it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but we know one day we'll get there," he wrote.
"We feel very lucky to be Axel's parents," he continued. "Even though he was stillborn, we know we will hold him again one day under different circumstances and the joy he gave us will be with us forever."
Among Karlsson's social media posts was one from the couple's gender reveal party, when he took a slap shot at a hockey puck that exploded in blue powder. Karlsson jumped and yelled joyously when he found out it was a boy.
"There is so much love coming out of this dressing room for them,'' defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. "Erik is a huge part of this team and Erik and Melinda are a huge part of this community and this city. We really are a family in here, and it hurts all of us deeply.''
The 27-year-old defenseman has had a difficult season on the ice as Ottawa has plummeted in the standings. The two-time Norris Trophy winner was the subject of trade speculation for weeks ahead of the NHL trading deadline.
"Everybody is heartbroken, it's awful,'' coach Guy Boucher said. "We definitely feel for Erik and his wife and his family.''
The hockey world was quick to share its sympathies, with the NHL Players' Association, players and teams reaching out to voice support.
"The players and staff of the NHLPA extend their condolences to Erik and Melinda Karlsson following the loss of their son,'' tweeted the NHLPA.