Usually, the captain of a hockey team is tasked with leading their teammates through thick and thin, on and off the ice. This hockey season is not a usual season - and Matt Flodell is not your usual captain.
The captain of this year’s Flin Flon Bomber roster has had to assume a different role this year, due in large part to the team’s suspension of activity due to COVID-19 and related health measures. The soon-to-be-20-year-old forward, now in his third full season with the team, is doing the same as the rest of his teammates - spending the holidays at home, waiting for word on what comes next and staying cautiously optimistic.
“It’s tough not knowing what’s going to happen day-to-day. I think the big part for me and the rest of the guys is looking forward and being positive,” Flodell said.
“Things are probably going to turn out decent and we’ll still get to finish out the season here.”
Flodell was a logical choice to be the team’s captain this year. The only returning player to wear a letter with the club last season and a point-per-game player during the Bombers’ four playoff games, nobody on the team has been “in the program” longer than Flodell. The captain is the only player remaining from the Bombers’ class in the first-ever SJHL bantam draft back in 2015.
“It’s been a long time, but a good time for sure,” he said.
The two-way forward first figured he’d get the “C” not long before the Bombers’ first exhibition games against La Ronge, after training camp had already begun.
“I kind of had a gut feeling, since I was the lone “A” coming into the year, but you never actually know,” he said.
“It’s a great honor to be appreciated for what I can bring to the locker room and lead these guys. That's what I hope to do in the new year.”
When the team called a halt to the season last month after just two games, Flodell was left not knowing what the next step would be. The team suspended one set of weekend games, then two, then all operations until January at the earliest. Under provincial health orders that went into effect soon after the team’s home opener, the Whitney Forum would be closed, shutting the team off from playing or practicing.
“We weren’t getting any clear answers. We’d get a little shine of hope every now and then and Reags [head coach and GM Mike Reagan] would let us know what’s going on, but it just didn’t turn out in our favour,” said Flodell.
“To put it simply, it was tough, but it wasn’t like we didn’t know everything that was going on. It was tough, but it wasn’t like we didn’t know everything Reags knew. He kept us in the loop and kept it honest with us.”
It was here where Flodell’s leadership abilities were put to the test.
“It's been a learning experience for everyone on the team, the coaches and myself too. We’re kind of learning how to keep everyone's spirits up, even though we don't really know exactly what's going on every second of the day. In previous years, it's pretty simple - you show up at the rink every day and do what it takes to win, but this is definitely different,” he said.
“Not really knowing what's going on, but we’re just trying to keep positive and keeping that open mind, that something will come our way and we'll be able to finish our season here. That’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
When or if it comes time to hit the ice again, Flodell says he’ll be ready. Over his three seasons, Flodell played under a pair of positive role models serving as captains - Nate Hooper and Mason Martin. Flodell said he learned from their example and hopes he can provide the same for the team’s younger players.
“We’ve had good leaders in my run through with the team. I think the biggest thing I took from the captains and assistant captains I’ve had in the past is to lead and work hard every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s a game or if you’re practicing, working out, even volunteering in the community - you lead by example and do everything to the fullest,” he said.
“I’m not afraid to speak up and say what’s on my mind and let guys know what need to happen for us to be successful, but I like to take a lot of pride in my game as well and lead by example, with good work ethic and doing everything that Reags asks - keeping it simple and stuff like that.”
Flodell is staying in game shape at home in Prince Albert, going to a local gym and working out whenever possible.
“I think we’re going to have a really good season. I think it’ll just take a few more games for everyone to click in, everyone to find their role and get the team on pace,” he said.
During Flodell’s time as a Bomber, there’s always been something between the Bombers and the league title - a devastating Nipawin Hawks defense in 2018, a near-reverse sweep of the Battlefords North Stars that came up just short in 2019, COVID-19 last season shutting the dream down abruptly.
Flodell thinks the drought can end on his watch.
“I think we’ll be capable of doing some pretty good things here, hopefully bring back a championship that Flin Flon’s been deserving of for quite a while,” said the captain.