By Sara MoultonFree Press Staff
Playing for the Fernie Ghostriders is an experience that the team members embrace with great enthusiasm, but it is also just one aspect of the lives of the remarkable young men who entertain their fans week after week throughout the season.
As junior hockey is open to those aged 16 to 20, the decision to play comes at a crucial time for young men who are often completing high school or beginning their post-graduation journey. Team captain Ben Primeau and teammate Cole Weber are two players who will be finishing their junior hockey careers this season, and both took the time to talk to The Free Press about life off-the-ice.
Primeau has played two previous seasons with the Ghostriders after graduating early from high school in 2010. At 20 years old, he is now reflecting on his time playing hockey and considering his options once this season ends.
“Being a couple of years out of school, I have a way better understanding of what I want to do for my future,” says Primeau. “I’m more academic than anything. I’d love to go into engineering, and I’ve always been interested in business, too.”
For Weber, relocating to Fernie this season was largely due to the influence of head coach, Dale Hladun. Determined to begin further education this year, the 19-year-old balances full-time university with his hockey commitments by commuting to Cranbrook on most days. Weber is currently enrolled in a business program and is considering law as a postgraduate option.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” he says. “Hockey has always been my passion, but there comes a time where you have to think about your future if it doesn’t work out.”
Both men agree that the experience of leaving home for the first time and being far from home can be difficult for some players, as they are separated for long periods of time from their families and girlfriends. However, Weber points out that this year’s team has already become exceptionally close, and with some players living together in their billet homes, they have to accept the good with the bad.
“In the end, you get super close and it’s pretty much like having a full team of brothers. I suspect that by the end of the year, we all would’ve been at each other’s throats a couple of times!”
The team are often seen participating in community activities around Fernie, including volunteering at the local schools and fundraising for various charities. Several players also work at local businesses in addition to their commitments with the club, which ensures they are always kept busy. Ultimately, the experience during such a formative time involves so much more than what can be seen from the grandstand.
“In the end, it’s such a good learning experience. A lot of guys do it just for fun and they end up getting a lot more out of it than they thought they would,” says Primeau. “Everything makes you better in the end, even when it’s hard.”