Mitch Fadden of Victoria, who scored more than 30 goals three times in his Western Hockey League career and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, died in his sleep this week at 29.
“We don’t know the cause of death, yet,” said his father, Gord Fadden.
Fadden was part of the 2007 Island draft class that also included Jamie Benn, Taylor Ellington and Dan Gendur. All signed entry-level NHL contracts with Benn going on to captain the Dallas Stars and win Olympic gold.
Fourth-rounder Fadden was drafted ahead of fifth-rounder Benn following a standout junior career that included back-to-back seasons of 36 goals and 84 points and 34 goals and 89 points with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Fadden, who began his WHL career with the Seattle Thunderbirds, had 37 goals and 76 points in the 2008-09 season split between the Hurricanes and Tri-City Americans.
“Mitch was the greatest kid, and would light up every room, and was a joy to be around,” said dad Gord Fadden.
Mitch Fadden came out the Saanich Minor Hockey Association and the Racquet Club of Victoria to play a season of Junior B hockey with the Victoria Cougars. Rival Peninsula Panthers coach Pete Zubersky, whose roster included Benn, remembers trying to figure out ways to defence against Fadden’s emerging talent.
“[Fadden] had that scoring touch. He could put pucks in the net,” said Zubersky.
The blue-liner Ellington was part of the budding group and went on to be selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round, 33rd overall, and remembers trying to defend Fadden first in Island youth hockey and then in the WHL as a defenceman for the Everett Silvertips.
“Playing against Mitch made you a better player,” said Ellington, who now works for a Victoria property management company.
“You had to play your ‘A’ game against Mitch. He was super competitive and super enthusiastic. He pushed me and I am grateful for that. He was part of a great group of guys to learn from on the Island.”
Fadden and Ellington were roommates at the 2007 NHL combine and there was another side to Fadden that Ellington remembers well: “Mitch was always fun to be around and had a great smile.”
Former Vancouver Canucks-signed forward Gender came out of Peninsula Minor Hockey before transferring to Racquet Club, where he played alongside Fadden. The two also skated together in summers and golfed at Gorge Vale.
“Mitch was ultra-competitive and got the best out of people. He made everybody around him better. He made me a better player. That’s how skilled he was,” said Gendur, the former Victoria Salmon Kings ECHL player, who now coaches the Airdrie Bisons of the Alberta Midget Triple-A League.
“This is a sad time for his family and those who knew him.”
Fadden was good enough to play Junior B as a 15-year-old for the Victoria Cougars. The then-Cougars coach Craig Didmon recalls an emerging young player: “Mitch was super talented and loved the game . . . he scored a goal a game for us in the playoffs [as one of the youngest players in the league].”
Fadden played three seasons of pro hockey from 2009-10 to 2011-12, one in the American Hockey League with the Norfolk Admirals and two in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades and Utah Grizzlies. He was leading the ECHL in scoring in 2010-11 with 15 goals and 51 points in 37 games before a blood clot in his leg ended his season just before the all-star game, to which he had been named as a first-team selection. Fadden returned to the ECHL the following season and played his final pro campaign in Utah. The persistent clots ended his career because Fadden was required to be on blood thinners for the rest of his life due to a hereditary Protein S deficiency.
“We had a good group of guys that we played with and against on the Island, and we learned from each other, and Mitch was a big part of that,” said Ellington.
“He was a great kid and a lot of people are going to miss him.”
Fadden is survived by father Gord, mother Deb and brother Matt.
The family moved to the Interior a few years ago. A celebration of life is planned Dec. 16 at the Salmon Arm Community Centre.