Trio of Team Canada teammates at world junior championships linked by tragedy
HALIFAX — When Shane Wright, Brennan Othmann and Brandt Clarke find each other, it’s often with a wink, a smile and sometimes a tear.
The wink is because the three have known each other for so long, teammates for three years on the GTHL’s Don Mills Flyers AAA.
« These guys have been around a lot for me, » said Wright, the 18-year-old Burlington frontline center and member of the Seattle Kraken. « We’re finally back on the same team here, two of my best buddies in the world. »
The smile is knowing that they will walk together as champions, winning the OHL Cup in 2019 – the biggest trophy of the year U16 – and having that rare chance to win another championship together with Team Canada at the junior world championship.
“I didn’t know if we would ever have a reunion like this, but the fact that we could do this on the world stage this time, having been together since we were 14, – well, Shane was 13 because he’s a phenom — but he’s a really cool feeling,” said Clarke, of Ottawa and a member of the Los Angeles Kings. “I’m really happy to be with these guys again. We had a lot of wins on the day and hopefully we can rekindle that.
The tear, however, is for their dear friend and Flyers keeper, Roy Pejcinovski, who was brutally murdered along with his mother, Krissy, and sister Vana, by Krissy’s boyfriend, in 2018.
« You have a hole in your stomach when you think about it, » says Othmann, who grew up on the border of Scarborough and Pickering and is a New York Rangers prospect. « It’s super sad and super tragic. You don’t want to see something like this happen to anyone.
“He was a very good boy and a very good person and he was an exceptional goalkeeper. We miss him so much every day.
« It was heartbreaking, » Clarke says. « Roy was a special person in our lives, with the energy he brought to the locker room every day. Having that ripped off instantly is something I will never forget. I would definitely trade anything in my life for that. he comes back.
The murders took place in mid-March 2018, as the Don Mills Flyers AAA Bantam (U15) faced the Toronto Marlies in the GTHL playoffs with a chance to defend their provincial championship title. Pejcinovski was the best goalkeeper of a powerful team.
« It’s definitely something that’s always going to stick with us no matter what or where we go, » Wright says. “But it is also something that binds us. We were teammates and we used to see each other every day and were really close. He is always in our thoughts and prayers. »
The playoffs took a break as Flyers players dealt with heartbreak.
“There was no conscious thought process about how to get out of it,” said Flyers coach Marc Slawson. « It was day after day, moment after moment. »
There was no recipe for how best to deal with the murder of a teammate. Player? Not play?
« Is it wrong of us to always want this? » Slawson said. “How are you doing? The boys, collectively, wanted to play in the provincials. They wanted the experience. They wanted to play for Roy.
The players turned to each other.
« It’s something no 15- or 14-year-old should ever have to experience, » Clarke says. “Without Shane, without Brennan, without the other 14 guys on that Don Mills team, I don’t know how I could have gotten away with it. I don’t know how I could have come back to the rink or anything like that. These guys are really my brothers, the guys who picked me up when I was at my worst and I feel like I helped them pick them up when they were at their worst.
The Flyers returned to hockey, defeated the Marlies and went on to win the provincial championship that spring.
« We were able to use hockey as a distraction, come to the rink, take our minds off things, » Slawson said.
“You can either move away or move closer,” says Othmann. « It brought us closer »
Cory Fenn – Krissy’s boyfriend – was convicted in 2022 of three counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life.
Pejcinovski is commemorated in various ways. The GTHL has established the Roy Pejcinovski Memorial Goaltending Character Award.
In the 2019 OHL Draft, Wright went first overall, Othmann went second, Clarke went fourth, and Pejcinovski — in a league commemorative move — went 74th, his jersey number.
Othmann and Wright wrote « RP 74 » on their sticks to remember their friend.
The players also kept in touch with Vas Pejcinovski, Roy’s father.
“His dad was a big part of the team as well,” says Wright. « He was always around the team. It’s important that we stay in touch with him and have a relationship with him. He’s one of our biggest fans and our biggest supporters. His support and energy means a lot to us.
There is only the link of the three. Othmann and Wright share a birthday (January 5), a year apart. And when the OHL final went three-on-three overtime, it was those three on the ice for Don Mills, with Wright passing to Othmann for the winner. The three were together again for a gold medal at the Under-18 World Championships in 2021.
« It’s a nice little bond we’ve built with Brandt, Shane and me, » Othmann said. « It’s good that this is kind of our last go-around, trying to win a gold medal. »
It’s not that unusual for three players to be on the same AAA GTHL team to be in the NHL, but for three to be on the same national team at the same time is pretty remarkable.
« When we look back, and we look at Shane, Brandt and Brennan, it’s a pretty good feeling, » Slawson said. “We think these guys carry on the memory of Roy and represent our program. We are proud of it.
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