stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
University a new chapter for two former Broncos
space
Matthieu Gomercic and Bryce Fiske bond as they adapt to life as student-athletes
space
By JAMIE ROSS
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, November 17, 2018 – Page S1

OSHAWA -- After he'd recovered from the accident, Matthieu Gomercic wrestled with what to do next.

It was June. Only a few months had passed since the bus that carried him and his Humboldt Broncos teammates was broadsided by a tractor-trailer as they travelled to a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game. Sixteen players and staff were killed.

Thirteen more were injured.

He'd already been back skating for a month, and as his separated shoulder healed (he also had sustained a concussion) he eyed a return to hockey in the fall, in time for the coming season.

The question was, where would he play? At 21, he was too old to go back to junior. He'd looked at a few NCAA schools south of the border. He was in talks with the University of Manitoba.

Going there would've been easiest. He'd be close to his parents, Rob and Joanne, and the familiar surroundings of his hometown of Winnipeg.

He was also considering an offer from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. The coach of the men's hockey program there really wanted him. Gomercic, a lanky centreman coming off a four-year junior career, came highly recommended as a player with a ton of untapped potential. He'd be joining a nascent program on an upswing.

But playing more than 2,000 kilometres away would mean leaving home again and he wasn't sure how he'd cope with being away from his family. He was still coming to terms with what he'd lived through in the spring.

The decision he needed to make came into focus one weekend on a trip he'd taken with his girlfriend, Jessica, to her remote cabin. Being off the grid for the first time since the crash made him anxious.

"The first day I'd get to the cabin, I'd think. 'I can't do this,' " Gomercic says. "No cell service, can't call [my parents]. I haven't talked to them about it, so I don't know how they were feeling those two days, but for me it was tough."

Still, he got through it.

Looking back on it now, Gomercic says that difficult weekend in the woods was a turning point. It made the "transition a little easier" when, in late summer, he packed up and headed for Oshawa to study kinesiology and join the UOIT Ridgebacks, a men's hockey team in the Ontario University Athletics conference, for the 2018-19 season.

It didn't hurt that Bryce Fiske, a former Broncos teammate, had committed to the team a month earlier.

"Having Bryce here, that was a big part of it," Gomercic says.

THE BOND IS STRONG, IF UNDERSTATED Bryce Fiske calls out to a photographer who's been following him around for an hour to take his picture. Fiske, watching his team from the stands on this afternoon, greets him warmly, as though they are old buddies.

(They've only just met.)

"Carlos! Carlos!" he calls out.

He wonders aloud, dressed in a neat grey suit, if this is a photo shoot for GQ magazine.

"Bryce is a little more outgoing, a joker, a loose nature in the room," says Ridgebacks head coach Curtis Hodgins, who recruited Gomercic and Fiske.

On the ice, he's something different. Known as a hard-nosed defenceman with the stats to back it up (he amassed almost 400 penalty minutes in 216 games over four seasons of Junior A), Fiske has only one reservation about playing hockey at the university level: its ban on fighting.

"It's a physical game out here, and I like that," he says. "But there's a lot more cheap shots and you're not gonna fight.

You've only got 28 games and you don't need a two-game suspension."

He comes by his mean streak honestly. In a 2012 New York Times article examining the prominence of fighting in Saskatchewan junior hockey, both Fiske and his father, Kelly, are vocal proponents of the fisticuffs.

Even at 14, Fiske wasn't shy about dropping the gloves. "It doesn't really scare me," he said, still a bantam-aged player at the time.

If Gomercic speaks openly about his experience since the Humboldt bus crash, Fiske, 21, would rather talk hockey.

So when he does address Humboldt, the tough guy you'd see guarding the crease begins to emerge. He does not reveal much about the injuries he suffered in the crash. He says he broke his jaw and shoulder blade, but concedes "pretty much everything was messed up."

He's more at ease talking about the people - his former Broncos billets; his parents, Kelly and Tracy; and his old teammates, with whom he remains in almost constant contact via an iMessage chat thread.

The bond is strong, if understated. Perhaps the words that best describe his connection to Humboldt don't even belong to him, though he reads them every day. They're tattooed across his rib cage, in homage to his late Broncos coach, Darcy Haugan: "It's a good day to be a Bronco, gentlemen."

While Fiske still identifies as a Bronco, he now wears a Ridgebacks jersey. He's focused on the present, adapting to the quiet anonymity of his new surroundings and life as a student athlete.

"It's nice out here, to be away from everything," says Fiske, who is studying commerce at UOIT. "No one knows who I am."

'WE'RE LEANING ON EACH OTHER, RIGHT?' Gomercic and Fiske were not best buddies when they played together in Humboldt, but they lived close enough to one another that they hung out frequently.

Gomercic often attended whenever Fiske's billets, Wes and Carla Clement, had a big crew of Broncos over to their house.

Naturally, they've grown closer since the crash and their subsequent moves to Oshawa.

"Us being the only two [Broncos] out here, we're leaning on each, right?" Gomercic says. "It's blossomed a little because of the circumstances."

When they got to Oshawa, the entire Ridgebacks team sat them down and made it known that both players could count on them if they needed anything - no request would be too small.

"They just wanted to be treated like everyone else. They want to be a Ridgeback, and a studentathlete," Hodgins says.

Their support network stretches far beyond the campus at UOIT. It's difficult to quantify the outpouring of sympathy that followed the crash. Hockey and non-hockey people from around the world gravitated to the story.

It was covered or picked up in some fashion by virtually every media outlet. An online fundraiser accrued more than $15million to support the crash victims and their families.

The player agent and former NHL great Bobby Orr dedicated his new book, Bobby: My Story in Pictures, to the people of Humboldt and Broncos past and present.

"The hockey family is a big, generous family. When you think about what went on out west after the tragedy, the support, and it continues," Orr told The Globe and Mail. "I dedicate the book to the whole community. The hockey family is why you do that, what you should do, the right thing to do. They're part of the family. We're thinking about them. All over the world. " Almost eight months since the crash, Gomercic is still awed by the response.

From the Winnipeg Jets and principal owner Mark Chipman, to his parents, billets, doctors, therapists, Hodgins and the Ridgebacks coaching staff, opposing coaches, and just random people who've reached out to offer their support and condolences, he says the generosity of strangers still takes him by surprise.

"It's just crazy. You think you're just a Junior A player. No one will ever know you, but then people start to recognize you and it catches you off guard," he says.

'I THINK HOCKEY HELPS ME GET AWAY' On paper, they're just a couple of Prairie boys living the dream; two Canadian hockey players trying to keep the ride going a little longer. Thousands of young men across Canada do the same every year.

What happened on the bus did not diminish their love of the game. If anything, it's been emboldened.

"From a mental perspective, I think hockey helps me get away.

Forget about it. The first couple of games it was tough, you go through that routine, with certain people, and you realize they're not here any more," Gomercic says. "But once I got over that, I started thinking about it, and being thankful for the memories instead of being upset about them."

Fiske scored a goal in his first OUA game as a member of the Ridgebacks on Oct. 6.

At 13:28 of the second period in a game against Nipissing, he followed an odd-man rush up the ice and into the attacking zone, where he drove toward the net and potted a loose puck in the crease to give his team a 4-1 lead.

Two weeks later, Gomercic notched his first college goal by tucking a rebound past a goaltender from the Royal Military College in the second period to help UOIT to a 7-2 victory.

On their own, neither event is remarkable. Hockey players score all the time. But for these two Ridgeback rookies, those goals represent the beginning of a new chapter, seven months after their lives were turned upside down on a highway in rural Saskatchewan.

Associated Graphic

Former Humboldt Broncos Matthieu Gomercic, left, and Bryce Fiske, at the UOIT rink earlier this month, have grown closer since moving to Oshawa.

CARLOS OSORIO/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Drew_Fagan Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page