WINNIPEG, MB - For Riverton’s Carter Comeau, a chance to officiate in the BC Junior Hockey League seemed like a good idea.
Now that the former member of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, the MMJHL’s Stonewall Jets and the KJHL’s Arborg Ice Dawgs was through with his playing career, officiating was a good second choice. He had done house league games in the Interlake and some Triple A bantam and midget, but he wanted to do more. So Comeau signed up to go to a Referees and Linesmen camp in Port Alberni, B.C. in 2017.
“At the camp, I was approached by the BC Junior Hockey League’s referee-in-chief and he said that if I moved to B.C., he’d give me work doing lines in the BCHL,” Comeau recalled. “I thought, that sounds great, so my girlfriend and I moved to Kelowna and I started doing lines and working security at the Kelowna General Hospital.
“It’s kind of amazing what can happen.”
Indeed, it is. But let’s go back a couple of years.
Carter Comeau was born in Winnipeg and grew up playing hockey in Riverton. His grandmother was from Berens River First Nation and he just happened to be hockey legend Reggie Leach’s nephew.
A good, big defenseman, he played for the Interlake Lightning in the Manitoba Triple A Midget League and then in 2013-14, he played for the Winnipeg Blues, but was eventually traded to the OCN Blizzard and decided not to play in the north. He got his release and moved to the Stonewall Jets of the MMJHL and then the Arborg Ice Dawgs of the KJHL.
After the 2015-16 season, he remained in hockey by becoming a linesman and moved to BC.
Now, however, in one of the most incredible stories in the recent history of Canadian sports, Riverton, Manitoba’s 6-foot-6, 340-pound linesman will actually be a lineman (singular) and play Canada West football at the University of Calgary next season.
That’s right, football.
“I was doing lines in the BCHL and working in a security job at the Kelowna General Hospital when a guy I worked with asked if I’d ever played football,” Comeau said. “I said I’d always wanted to, but there wasn’t any opportunity living in Riverton, so he said, ‘Why don’t you call the football coach with the Okanagan Sun, the BC Junior Football League team here in town.’
“So I called the coach and he said the team’s rookie camp was ‘by invitation only,’ so I kind of gave up on it for a couple of days, but then thought, ‘I’m going to call him again and this time I’ll tell him how big I am.’ So I called back and left a message and told him I was 6-foot-6, 340, and then a few minutes later my phone rang. He said come down to the field tonight and meet the coaching staff. I don’t think they believed they had a guy my size in the community and they’d missed me.
“So I went down to the field, met the coaches and the ‘by invitation only’ thing went out the window. I went to camp, beat out two veterans for the starting O-line job and I never missed a snap all season.”
He had a terrific year in his one and only season with the Sun. After starting out as a D-lineman in camp, he moved to O-line and became one of the best in the BCJFL.
But the story didn’t end there. Far from it. During the season, more than 30 universities called the team, including a few from NCAA Division 1 schools. Seems they’d noticed this 6-foot-6, 340-pound athlete with outstanding strength and footwork.
“I talked a lot with Coach Dobie at the U of M, but my girlfriend Carrigan and I thought it would be good to get away,” he said. “I liked what the U of M had to offer and it would have been nice to stay in Manitoba, not far from home, but we agreed that it was time for us to move on.
“So I narrowed my choice down to Calgary and Laval. I talked to a couple of U.S. schools but there was no full ride available and it was just too expensive. I would have loved to have played down there, but in the end, I just couldn’t afford it. Laval was great but it’s a French school and I don’t speak a lot of French, so Calgary just seemed like the right fit.
“They had great coaches and one of them, Paul Carson, has a cabin near my cousin Jamie Leach’s cabin. It’s a small world sometimes.”
On Dec. 17, Calgary head coach Wayne Harris Jr., announced that Carter Comeau from Riverton, Man., had agreed to play football for the Dinos next fall.
“It’s kind of amazing, I guess,” Comeau said modestly. “If you’d asked me a year ago, I never would have imagined it. I mean four years ago, I was a 320-pound defenseman who walked into Blues camp and caught (head coach) Don McGillivray’s kid with a big check when he had his head down. I rocked him and thought, ‘Well my days with the Blues are numbered.’ But I made the Blues and loved playing there. They treated me really well. I was really disappointed when I got traded to OCN.
“But that seems like such a long time ago now. For a guy who always wanted to play football, I guess I’m a football player now.”
Scott Taylor, Manitoba Post
Photo courtesy the University of Calgary