~ Written by Mat Barrett, northeast NOW, photo courtesy (Facebook/Lisa Schmidt Frei)
A former Melfort Mustangs fan favourite has signed his first career pro hockey contract.
Tristan Frei has signed a deal to play for the Guildford Flames in England’s Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) for the 2021-22 season.
The 25-year-old has some friends playing in the league, including one playing in Guildford already, and said after a great conversation with the coach, this was the right decision for him at the time, even with a few other offers to play in North America. Frei said he never thought he’d be playing in England, but he’s excited for the next step.
“Watched a lot of YouTube videos of the league and how it plays,” Frei told northeastNOW. “The UK fans are super excited, they kind of treat it like a soccer match, they stand up, they cheer, they pack the crowd. So, I’m just looking forward to heading over and being enriched in the culture, and the country itself.”
Frei had spent the last five seasons with the University of Regina Cougars, but was unable to play his fifth and final season due to COVID-19. He said while there were options to go pro this season, he wanted to finish his degree to make sure there was something to fall back on.
“I was a little bit worried, I haven’t played in a year,” Frei said. “But my agent did a really good job and I’m really lucky that a team like Guildford would take a chance on me.”
Now that he’s got his first pro deal, Frei said it’s just the first step and he hopes to continue making a living playing hockey in some form.
“I just want to keep playing and taking care of my body,” he said. “And if I go over to a few countries in the future to play, great, so I can use it to travel, but also to be playing at a high level like the EIHL.”
During his four seasons of playing in Regina with the Cougars, Frei was the captain in 2018/2019 and 2019-20. He played a total of 109 USports games and won a bronze medal while representing Canada at the 2018-19 Universiade.
Frei played in Melfort between 2013 and 2016 and quickly became part of one of Melfort’s most famous trios in recent memory, the ‘Minion Line’ that also featured Justin Boyer, and Travis Mayan. With that trio, the Mustangs won back-to-back titles in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Frei was the captain for the 2015-16 season. Through his three seasons, Frei played 164 regular season Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League games, notching 143 points. He also added 46 points across 37 playoff games.
Frei playoff numbers are also in the Melfort Mustang record books as his 28 assists are first all-time, his 18 goals are second all-time, and his 46 points are second all-time. 37 career playoff games also sit him tied for fourth in Mustangs history. Combining regular season and playoff numbers, Frei is top-20 in points, goals, assists, and games played in Mustangs history.
Mustangs head coach and general manager Trevor Blevins called Frei a staple of the Melfort Mustangs program and what he did for the club was “nothing short of phenomenal”.
“One of the best players I’ve ever coached, but also probably one of the most quality individuals I’ve ever coached,” Blevins said. “And to see him go pro in Europe is fantastic, he deserves every opportunity he gets.”
The Regina product spent his U18 AAA career with the Regina Pat Canadians between 2010 and 2013.
On Twitter: @matbarrett6