A life ahead sharing wonderful times, brotherhood and friendship was cut short.
Victoria Grizzlies’ goalie, Kurtis Chapman, lost his best friend, Morgan Simpson, in a car crash on March 2.
“He was the closest thing I had to a brother,” Chapman said. “I loved him with all my heart, it just won’t be the same without him.”
Chapman is an only child, he joked that his parents were deciding whether to have one more child or let Chapman play hockey, and hockey won. But Simpson was like his brother.
The two met playing hockey, when Simpson’s family moved to Airdrie, Alta. They were in Grade 6, and had the same classes in middle school.
At first introduction, Chapman knew they were going to be best friends because of Simpson’s friendly disposition.
The two were joined at the hip, they both loved playing different sports and would go golfing together in the summer. They played Call of Duty for hours, and Chapman said with a laugh that they were both really good, neither one superior to the other.
Chapman describes his friend as always happy, positive, really energetic and very genuine. He recalled many times Simpson was there for him as a shoulder to lean on, or to lend an ear and offer support.
Simpson also helped Chapman through his friend Markus’ passing in 2015.
Simpson was there for him last year, when Chapman found himself in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) championship series. Chapman was the goalie for the Portage Terriers and they were down two games to the OCN Blizzards.
“He called me and lifted me up and gave me the power to take the next four, for us to win the championship,” Chapman said. “He said that he believed in me and that I can do it … he said ‘You better not come home without a ring.’”
When Chapman first got the call about the crash, his gut reaction was that he needed to get to his friend immediately. Simpson’s dad said it would be okay and that he had time, so Chapman stayed in Victoria.
The next morning he got a call saying things did not look good for Simpson and he needed to come back to Alberta, so he took the earliest flight out of Victoria. His parents picked him up at the airport and drove straight to the hospital.
There was a delay with his flight, so he didn’t make it in time to say goodbye, he said he was about 45 minutes too late.
Chapman intends to honour his friend on and off the ice. He has Simpson’s hockey number on the back of his helmet and he wants to work as hard as Simpson did on the ice, never taking a shift off.
He wants to create a legacy of kindness that his friend was known for and be a beacon of light and be encouraging.
Chapman said he has received support from his teammates during this time and his parents have been messaging him every day to check up on him.
Chapman is battling a lower body injury that caused him to leave Game 1 of the series against Powell River on Friday.
He has been battling the injury since Game 4 of the first round, but he didn’t let it stop him from helping the Grizzlies to pull off an upset against the Bulldogs with their backs against the boards.