Playoff hockey brings out the best in the best players, it's their time to shine. This is certainly true for Todd Fiddler, of the WHL's Spokane Chiefs.
“When we got him last year we knew we were getting a kid who had talent,” Spokane Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said about Fiddler.
Fiddler had a goal and an assist, leading Spokane to a 4-3 overtime win over arch rival Tri-City Americans on March 28 in the first round of the WHL playoffs. The Chiefs now lead the best-of-seven series 2 games to 1.
Fiddler is a hockey player from Waterhen Lake First Nation of Saskatchewan, part of the Cree Nation. Growing up was spent mostly in Meadow Lake, about an hour south of the Waterhen Lake Reserve although he said, “When I was youngster I’d always go visit my grandparents. I played a lot of hockey up there, hanging out.”
Today, at age 19, Fiddler plays hockey for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League.
Fiddler began playing in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders in Saskatchewan but in late December of 2011 he was traded to the Spokane Chiefs. “He didn’t have a great ending to the year but the start of this season he was a whole different guy,” Nachbaur said. “It’s very tough to fit into a new team. This year he’s more comfortable with our group. He became a real catalyst as far as scoring goals for us. At one point he was leading the league. He’s dropped off a little in recent games but I think that goes hand in hand with the injuries we’ve had.”
“Our first half success,” Nachbaur continued, “you can point a finger at Fids. He was phenomenal, every night scoring goals, and big goals. We ended up going home at Christmas at second place in our conference and I’d say it was a direct result of what he did.”
Coach Nachbaur has had experience with other Native hockey players. “I had a real good one when I coached the Tri-City Americans – Colton Yellow Horn – just a tremendous person, a tremendous worker, and an excellent athlete. I would say that about Fids. He has God given ability and it’s really up to him how far he wants to take that. Hockey is like any sport. Discipline and hard work take you a long way.”
Nachbaur describes Fiddler as, “a quiet person. He isn’t your outgoing typical athlete. He’s more focused on what he wants to do. I think that’s the reason why he has 37 goals to date (February 21). It’s tough to score 50 goals in this league and he has an opportunity to do that.” (Fiddler finished the regular season with 42 goals and 35 assists.)
Todd Fiddler is living with a host family in Spokane, John and Laura Enquist. They describe him in the same way. “He’s a very nice guy but pretty quiet.” They expect to have him back next season as well and anticipate he’ll open up more his second year here, saying that’s pretty typical of players they’ve hosted in the past.
Todd got an early start at skating. When he was three he would put on his older brother’s roller blades, “When I was four I started playing hockey in Meadow Lakes.”
Everyone in his family played hockey. It’s big with First Nations people in his hometown. “On my reserve there are a lot of hockey players,” he said.
Coach Nachbaur agrees with that assessment. “It’s so readily available to them. Every little town has a hockey rink. It’s a great sport for kids. It teaches them so much. There are so many intangibles of life that are excellent for the kids. It gives them 20 instant friends and you’re accountable to those friends. And it’s a fun sport.”
Todd moved away from home at 15 to play for the Beardy’s Blackhawks in Midget AAA. Then at 17 he moved on to the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders before moving to Spokane. His plan is to return for another year with the Spokane Chiefs.
Asked about future plans he responded, “I guess every guy in this league wants to get a NHL invite or contract.” If that doesn’t pan out he’ll likely head to college, but don’t bet against him playing in the NHL.
For now, though, there's the WHL playoffs to focus on. Game 3 is set to face off tomorrow, March 30, at 7:05 p.m. Up 2 games to 1 in the best of 7 series, Fiddler and the Chiefs are hoping to knock off the Americans in five games and advance.
For more info, go to SpokaneChiefs.com.
Fiddler can score,
And he can scrap: