Members of the Grandville hockey team had to play their biggest game of the season tonight after the team learned of the death of captain and friend Ryan Fischer.
Fischer, a senior forward, died in his sleep Thursday night at his home in Grandville. The Kent County Medical Examiner says Fischer died from complications of an enlarged heart.
After talking to his parents and the school’s administration, the team decided to play its Division 1 semifinal game against Novi Detroit Catholic Central at Compuware Sports Arena in his honor. Fischer’s dad addressed the team this morning, according to a Michigan High School Athletic Association official.
“Honestly, it’s what the boys wanted and it’s what Ryan and the Fischer family wanted,” Grandville coach Joel Breazeale said tonight before the game.
“We’re a tight community in Grandville. This is something that Ryan dreamed of. Ryan grew up next door to me and our families have grown up together. We know what Ryan wanted. This is about him. This is really about our young men teaching and showing their fellow peers about perseverance and doing the right thing.
“It’s not about a hockey game today. It’s about honoring a great young man, a wonderful family and a community. They earned the right to be here and Ryan would want us to play.”
Teams wore stickers in honor of Fischer during the day.
“We let the boys kind of handle it on their own and we got counselors helping them along the way,” said Breazeale. “It’s really important for them to get comfortable and be themselves. As a staff we’re here to support them. It’s hard for all of us.
“We feel we’re doing the right thing. Everyone has been comforting to us. DCC has gone out their way to make sure we have their support.”
A member of the MHSAA’s Student Advisory Council for two years, Fischer, 17, was honored with a moment of silence before both Division 1 semifinal games. The MHSAA also offered to move the game back a day until Saturday with the final on Sunday.
“It’s got to be really tough for them. It’s a sad day,” Catholic Central coach Doug Itami. “I give them credit for wanting to come and play. In fact I’m sure there’s no book on this. No one knows how to act. No one knows what to say. It’s a tough situation. We would’ve done whatever Grandville wanted to do. Whatever that coach elected to do was fine with us.”
Itami had on a No. 11 sticker with the letters RF in honor of Fischer.
Fischer, a three-sport star in baseball, football, where he was captain of the team, and hockey, was to receive the MHSAA Class A Scholar-Athlete Award later this month.
“Our staff enjoyed knowing Ryan as an engaging member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council for two years and we grieve his loss with the entire Grandville Community,” said Jack Roberts, MHSAA executive director in a prepared statement.
Fischer was to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he planned to study aerospace engineering.
A three-year member of the hockey team, Fischer served four years on the school’s Leadership Team and was on his church’s youth leadership council. He was a member of Grandville High School’s student government and was selected to the U.S. Military Academy Summer Leadership Experience and the U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar after his junior year.