Brian Swane, Special to Canada West
EDMONTON – One is a resource industry hub on the Canadian Prairies that is the third largest city in its province. The other is a quiet Nordic community that was once the centre of a now-abolished Danish municipality.
The language, the food, the culture, even the climate, are vastly different.
But for the ocean that separate these two locales, share an unyielding passion for action on the ice.
Prince Albert, Sask., is where Tyler Fiddler's from; Vojens, Denmark, is where the 27-year-old is today, and Calgary is where he had a long layover in the interim – eight great years playing first in the Western Hockey League, and then in the Canada West.
"I think I am just so lucky that hockey has opened up so many doors for me," says Fiddler, an assistant captain with the 2010 Memorial Cup champion Calgary Hitmen who went on to become a Canada West All-Star at Mount Royal University.
"All my family are born and raised in P.A. and they haven't really ventured too far away from home, which is totally fine," he continues. "But for me, hockey has given me the opportunity to explore the world. I have been able to explore Europe and engage in the culture and lifestyle which has been an amazing experience."
Fiddler is wrapping up his second year in Denmark's premier ice hockey league, the Metal Ligean. The six-foot forward ranks among the top scorers on SønderjyskE, a team that plays in the league's smallest market but at its largest venue: The SE Arena has 5,000 seats, enough to accommodate about two-thirds the entire population of Vojens.
"Not a lot goes on here other than hockey," he says. "The people are very passionate about their team (and) the atmosphere at our home games is crazy. It is a lot of fun to play in front of."
After finishing his university career in 2016, Fiddler turned pro, notching 16 points in just 15 games with the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL, before deciding to go overseas for the 2016-17 season. His introduction to the Metal Ligaen came with the Esbjerg Energy, a team based in Denmark's fifth-largest city with a population roughly 10 times that of Vojens.
"I had heard good things about Denmark being a good stepping stone league that helps players develop and move on up to some of the top leagues in Europe," says Fiddler.
"The hockey is high quality with lots of talent and it is a bonus that the travel is fairly easy as the longest bus ride is three and a half hours."
Fiddler led MRU to the its first two Canada West semifinal appearances in the 2015 and 2016 playoffs, and in his senior season, 2015-16, ranked second in the conference with 35 points while being named a First Team All-Canadian. The Prairie product's worldly perspective broadened with the Canadian men's hockey team that won bronze at the 2015 Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain.
A decade has passed since a teen-aged Fiddler moved from his home province to join the Hitmen. Fiddler played parts of four seasons with the Western Hockey League club, highlighted by 2009-10, when he scored 30 goals before helping Calgary win the top prize in major junior hockey.
When his junior eligibility elapsed after the 2010-11 season, Fiddler decided to take advantage of the Western Hockey League's Premier Scholarship Program – for every season played in the WHL, a player is entitled to a minimum of tuition, books and compulsory fees at any post-secondary institution.
"I grew up in a family that valued education," says Fiddler. "My parents always preached the importance of school and getting good grades.
"Because of the WHL Scholarship Program it was an easy choice. To be honest, I didn't have much knowledge about university hockey at the time, but after doing some research and looking up team rosters and seeing most of the players were WHL graduates, it made the decision easy."
He enrolled at the University of Calgary where he studied for two years and suited up for the Dinos, before transferring in 2013 to Mount Royal so that he could study Business Administration, and play with the Cougars. For all his success in the rink at MRU, Fiddler found just as much accomplishment in the classroom.
"I'm most proud of being an Academic All Canadian in my fourth and fifth years," he says. "I'm proud of my business degree and that I have something to fall back onto once my hockey career is over."
That could be a while. Having tallied 28 goals and 73 points to go with a whopping plus-44 rating through his first 85 regular season games in Denmark, he's clearly at home on international ice.
"The Metal Ligaen is a fast paced and hardworking league," says Fiddler.
"I think the league is ideal for me since my game is built on speed and work ethic."
About the CW Alumni Spotlight:
Each year a new crop of Canada West student-athletes graduate and begin to make an impact in their communities as professionals. The CW Alumni Spotlight series looks to highlight the positive impact former CW student-athletes are making in communities across Western Canada and beyond.