The following column was printed in the April 19 issue of The Reminder.
This week’s column space will be set aside for one particular thing, one particular person who deserves a shoutout.
With the SJHL finals taking over the conversation across town and almost certain to bring hundreds - if not thousands - of fans to the Whitney Forum this weekend, the fate of the Bombers is front of mind. The team played the first two games of the SJHL final last weekend against the juggernaut Battlefords North Stars - and lost them both.
That said, they might have lost someone even more important than that.
About 15 minutes into the game, Bomber captain Lucas Fry got tangled up with a Stars forward in the defensive zone. I’m still not 100 per cent certain how it happened, but that player’s skate blade came up on Fry and sliced his arm open, creating an on-ice medical emergency.
A capacity Access Communications Centre in North Battleford went silent. Trainers from both teams, as well as Fry’s teammates, rushed to his aid. He was taken to hospital as soon as possible, underwent surgery the next morning and was back in North Battleford for Game 2 - but not to play, only to cheer on his teammates.
It was nobody’s fault. Accidents happen, especially in a fast-paced game where everyone has razor-sharp blades on their boots. That doesn’t make it any less painful though, I’m sure.
Fry turns 21 next month. This is his last season of junior A hockey before he ages out. We don’t know if he will make it back into the lineup.
I watch the Bombers very closely, including at times when most fans don’t - training camp, the occasional practice, road games via HockeyTV feeds. I can remember when Lucas first came on the scene for the Bombers - he was a summer offseason signing in 2020, coming from the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons, where he’d played a bunch of games as a young player but didn’t get a ton of ice time.
I remember looking at the picture of Fry signing his agreement with the Bombers and thinking, “Who is this guy with the poodle hair?” In the next fall’s training camp, I still wasn’t sure what I was seeing - Fry almost got lost in a tide of new, young players, but made it out of camp, even playing in a game before play was suspended again due to the pandemic.
When the Bombers hit the ice again the next fall, Fry was back in the picture and took a big step forward. He wasn’t just another face in the crowd anymore - he was a year older and a year wiser, a rock-solid defensive presence who scraped his way into the lineup and onto the penalty kill.
As the season wore on last year, Fry got more and more confidence in his game - you could see it from the crowd. He became the team’s signature defensive helper - so much so that, at last year’s Bomber year-end awards night, he was named the team’s best defensive player. I wouldn’t be too shocked if he became a rare two-time winner of that award this year. During Game 7 in Estevan last year - a game me and a bunch of buddies made the long trip south to watch - Fry logged big minutes, trying in vain to hold back the team that would eventually steal away Flin Flon’s dreams of a championship. This year looked like it could be a perfect moment of revenge - it absolutely still can be - but Fry may or may not get a chance to be a part of the games along the way.
Lucas Fry has never been the guy you look to in a key moment for a big goal. That’s not a knock on him - it’s just not his style of game. He has always been, in Flin Flon at least, the guy you look to if you need to stop a goal from going in, if you need a big hit or a big defensive stop, a blocked shot or a poke check getting the puck away from danger. It’s not glamourous, but it’s honest work - the kind of work you need to win a championship.
The Bombers and their fans will miss having him around on the ice for however long he’s out. Fry found a way from being lost in the shuffle to being front and centre, from being just another prospect to the guy with the captain’s C. That doesn’t happen without having to fight for it.
After every Bomber win, Fry and teammate Cole Duperreault come together on the ice for a big bear hug. You’d have a hard time finding two players - never mind that, two people period - happier in the building than those two guys. The hugs were harder to do when Duperreault was injured this year, but even still, Duperreault would still find a way onto the ice to bear-hug Fry, clad in his game-day suit without equipment.
There’s a bond between these young men that is hard to put into words. All teammates always look out for each other, always have each other’s backs, but there’s something special amongst Bombers.
The team has at least one home game, hopefully two, remaining this season. I certainly hope to see at least one more bear hug, even if Fry can only do so with his arm in a sling and in a suit instead of equipment.
Nobody deserves to have their junior hockey days end like this.
Looking at the footage from Games 1 and 2 last weekend, the Bomber roster looked deflated and scared after Fry was injured. I can’t blame them one bit, not one of them. It was a nasty, nasty image.
If I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to a group of players who are all far better at the sport they play than I’ve ever been, I’d like to switch to a different image, a good one - a championship trophy raised by Lucas Fry, your Flin Flon Bomber captain, injured or not, playing or not, raising it skyward in triumph.
It’ll take four straight wins to do it. It won’t be easy. It may not be probable. But it isn’t impossible - and Flin Flon will do whatever it needs to do to help make that happen.
Win it for Lucas.