GARRETT Zemlak will never forget his year at Fife Flyers.
The Saskatoon netminder has not only experienced all the highs and lows that ice hockey could throw at him, but he was also deeply moved by the tragedy that befell the team’s coach, Todd Dutiaume, following the sudden death of his wife, Kelly, and their unborn twins.
The season comes to an end this weekend as Flyers bring the curtain down on their first ever Elite League campaign with a Scottish double-header, with a home game against Dundee Stars on Saturday followed by the trip to Murrayfield Ice Rink to face Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday.
For Zemlak, it promises to be an emotional goodbye to the fans who have grown to idolise him.
“The last game of the year is always emotional and exciting and this one has an extra kick to it being against Dundee, so we’re all looking to have a good finish,” he said.
“It’s been a roller-coaster since day one, and everyone’s had their ups and downs, but at the same time, we have to celebrate the season, the friendships and the camaraderie.
“I got to live in a cool part of the world, and I’m a better goalie now than I was at this time last season, just through the work-load and mental toughness I’ve had to go through.
“With everything that’s happened here I also have a better appreciation for little things in life. I’ll never forget this year.”
The team will wear special jerseys this weekend in memory of Kelly Dutiaume and the twins, and as a tribute to their player-coach.
“Todd’s a great guy,” Zemlak said. “He brought me here and I have huge respect for him, not only as a coach but as a pal.
“He’s the first coach I’ve had that I can call my good friend also. That doesn’t happen much.
“It’s so unfortunate what he had to go though but we’re all there for him, and he knows that, and that’s been helping him.”
Zemlak will return to his Canadian homeland for the summer and although he is hoping for a move to a bigger league, he has not ruled out a second season in Fife.
“I’ve no idea what’s going to happen, that’s up to the agent,” he said. “It’s been a crazy year so I haven’t had much time to think about other stuff, but hopefully someone out there saw some of performances I had and are willing to give me a shot.
“I’ve have no contract talks with Fife, but maybe that will happen this summer. I’m not ruling it out, but I don’t have a straight answer right now.”