Banner-raising reunites Bisons
Teammates recall bond during run to the title
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/10/2018 (1582 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Caitlin Fyten has a life without hockey now, but the memories of winning a national championship as a member of the University of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team this past spring won’t be forgotten any time soon.
The 23-year-old from Sundre, Alta., who served as Manitoba’s captain for two seasons, got a vivid reminder of the Bisons’ storybook road to the U Sports title in 2017-18, when teammates past and current gathered Friday night to celebrate with a banner-raising ceremony prior to the U of M’s regular-season opener at Wayne Fleming Arena.
It was a poignant day for Fyten, a blue-liner, and fellow grads Venla Hovi, Charity Price, Alana Serhan and Nicole Carswell, all forwards, and goaltender Rachel Dyck. All six were back on the ice together for the first time since beating Western Ontario 2-0 in the championship game March 18.
“I remember the atmosphere on the bench in the last couple of minutes of the game,” Fyten said. “Everyone was hugging each other and holding each other. It was just really cool to see the girls that close.”
Fyten, who has returned to live and work in Alberta after earning her environmental studies degree, remembered the pledge she made to her dad, Harvey, who was diagnosed with cancer during her rookie season at the U of M. He died two years later, and wasn’t able to see his daughter’s championship season.
“It was definitely tough, but I know when he first told me he was sick, he made me promise I would stick out my five years and play it all there in Winnipeg,” she said. “So, I think he would’ve been very happy to see that and ending it that way.”
Hockey runs deep in the Fyten clan, with three of Caitlin’s four brothers currently playing at a high level. Austin plays for the AHL’s Providence Bruins, Andrew suits up for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and Seth, the youngest, plays junior A in Spruce Grove, Alta.
Joining the workforce following university had an unintended consequence for Fyten. She hasn’t yet found work in her chosen field as an environmentalist in the oil and gas industry, but she’s staying close to the business while working as a heavy-equipment operator at various locations around the province.
A demanding schedule of driving bulldozers and rock trucks doesn’t allow for any participation in hockey. But she hasn’t given up the game permanently.
“I’m going to see what it’s like with work first, because that’s my ultimate goal — get a career for myself,” Fyten said. “If it works out where I have a job that I’m around a lot more and I can pick up some hockey or coaching or something like that, I would definitely love to. I’ve been travelling a lot and have only been home for three days in the last month and a half, so there’s really no time for that right now.”
Hovi, meanwhile, has stayed close to the sport.
The 30-year-old Finn owns bronze medals from playing in the 2010 and 2018 Winter Olympics, and she’s continuing on as a member of her national team program while serving as an assistant to interim Bisons head coach Sean Fisher.
Hovi has been on the ice daily with her former teammates, coaching the power-play and penalty-killing units with extra emphasis on skills development. Her direct contact with the team ends next week when she departs for Calgary, where she will play for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Inferno in 2018-19.
She’ll continue to keep tabs on the Bisons with online work, but is also hoping to play for Finland at the Four Nations Cup in Saskatoon next month. In April, Hovi would consider it the thrill of a lifetime to be chosen to represent her country at the worlds in Espoo, Finland.
Her time in Manitoba has been thoroughly fulfilling.
“There’s so many memories, it’s not just about one moment when we win, right?” said Hovi, who was 26 when she first arrived in Winnipeg. “All the days I spent with my teammates, all the practices and all the disappointments in the years before where we had the chance and didn’t use it, got kinda close to getting to the nationals and weren’t ready.
“I think the program has taken some huge steps forward, and the result was there last spring.”
The Bisons were ranked No. 1 in the Canada West conference’s recent pre-season coaches poll, which comes as no surprise to Hovi. Twenty-one members of the national championship team have returned.
“The team chemistry and all that was definitely something special,” said Hovi, who won three titles in the Finnish national women’s league.
“Even in my hockey career, I feel like I’ve played forever, I haven’t experienced that many times. That was the No. 1 reason why we went there and won.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Friday, October 5, 2018 11:25 PM CDT: Fixes typo