The Kelvin Clippers women’s hockey team was getting ready for its game last week against the St. Mary’s Flames when it got a special surprise.
Desiree Ferbers, a Grade 12 defenceman, walked into the dressing room with her hockey bag over her shoulder and her stick in her hand.
"They all were freaking out and hugging me," Ferbers said.
The Clippers were emotional because they didn’t know Ferbers would be playing in her first game of the season after suffering significant injuries in a Nov. 1 car crash that left the school in shock over the death of student Julia Romanow.
Ferbers, one of four students who were hospitalized by the accident, was left with a major concussion, a fractured skull, multiple broken bones in her pelvis, two broken bones in her wrist and a broken collar bone. She couldn’t put any weight on her legs, and was confined to a wheelchair for two months.
Even when she surprised doctors by healing quickly enough to be discharged from the hospital after two weeks, she didn’t think she’d play hockey again this season.
"Everyone thought I’d be in the hospital for way longer," she said after Kelvin’s 3-3 tie with St. Mary’s, "and they said there was no way I’d be back this season, so I pretty much thought that hockey was done."
The River Heights resident returned to school part-time two weeks before winter break, and full-time after the holidays. Her physiotherapist got her back on her feet and, eventually, back on her skates.
Ferbers started practising with her teammates, but avoided contact until two weeks ago, when her orthopedist said she was ready.
And that’s when the assistant captain decided to rejoin her team between the boards.
"My team’s like my family," she said. "Pretty much all my best friends are on the team. They’ve come with me every step of the way. After the accident, they came and visited me (in the hospital)."
Clippers coach Sam Tougas said Ferbers’s injuries left a major void in the team, calling her a strong and calm defensive player, who quarterbacks the power play and makes smart decisions with the puck.
"It affected the girls quite a bit," he said. "The Grade 9 and 10 players have so much respect for her. It was a very tough moment and I think it bonded the team together more than normal. The girls felt like this was a little bit of a sisterhood within the school."
Ferbers said it took a few shifts to overcome her nerves, but the game came back naturally after that.
"I was just so happy to be back, and relieved because I never thought this would happen this year. Since I’m in Grade 12, I thought I’d be done hockey for good."