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Rye goalie’s special bond with young supporter
Ram’s goalie Troy Timpano had a rough introduction to the Ryerson hockey team. Last year in training camp, a puck struck him in the throat, breaking his larynx. He was forced to sit out half of the season, but when he finally made his OUA debut on Jan. 10, 2019, the business student showed why Ryerson had recruited him.Entering the game in the third period, he turned away all 12 shots in a 6-5 overtime victory over Waterloo. The 21-year-old followed this up two days later with a 4-3 win over Laurier. These performances earned him athlete of the week honours.
Timpano’s career has been marked by his ability to recover from injuries and ailments. “It seems like a little bit of a curse,” Timpano said. “I’ve had a pretty crazy career with injuries.”Over his five years in the OHL with Sudbury and Erie, he had a serious ankle injury, mononucleosis and severe pneumonia, from which he almost died in the hospital. Each of the incidents kept him off the ice for long stretches of the season. However, it was in the time recovering that Troy became great friends with his biggest fan: Wyatt Somers.
Wyatt’s fascination with the game of hockey began as a baby. His father, Phil, remembers that the back-and-forth action on TV utterly captivated Wyatt, who has autism. The neurological disorder, which can lead to social isolation, can also cause some children to fixate on a particular subject. For three-year-old Wyatt, this seemed to be hockey. So Phil started taking him to Sudbury Wolves games.
Wyatt was enamoured of Timpano when he first saw him play during his rookie season with the Wolves, in 2013. At the time, Wyatt was only six years old. “When he won, I was so happy. I was like, ‘Holy moly, he’s so good,’” Wyatt said.
Wyatt met his idol two months later at a community event called Bowling with the Wolves. “It just so happened that Troy was my partner, and that’s how we became friends,” Wyatt said.
“Wyatt had wanted to get his first official Wolves jersey,” Phil said. “He was so gung-ho to find a name and number on the back so he could look like a pro.” After bowling, Wyatt knew that he wanted Timpano, No. 33.
The jersey was ready for the first game after the Christmas break. “We’re standing waiting to get our tickets, and Troy’s mom came up from behind,” Phil said. This was the first time she’d seen a fan wearing her son’s jersey. This was a big deal for Troy too, and so when I found out, he wanted to meet with Wyatt again after the game.
Over the next two seasons, player and fan developed a ritual where Timpano would look for Wyatt sitting in his regular seat behind his net, give him a wink and a tap on the glass.
Timpano also struggled with injuries those seasons and was forced to watch many games from the stands.
“That’s how their bond is so strong,” Phil said. “Those two years where he had an injury, during the game, Troy would come to hang around with Wyatt.”
“He really appreciated me supporting him, and he was supporting me, so we had that mutual bond,” Timpano said.
After the 2015-16 season, Timpano was traded from the Wolves to the Otters, eight hours away in Erie, Pa. “I didn’t really believe my parents when they said that, and then I went to my room and I really had a lot of emotions,” said Wyatt. “But I was happy for him because it was a really good team.”
“Wyatt was one of the first people I told,” said Timpano. “But it didn’t change anything, he was still my biggest supporter. I got him an Erie jersey, and he still wore it, even sometimes to Sudbury games. We still have that brotherly relationship.”
With Timpano, the Erie Otters won the 2017 OHL championship.
Wyatt, now almost 12 years old, is still cheering on Timpano as he begins his second year with the Rams.
In August the Somers drove to visit with him at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. “We went to the dressing room, and I got to wear his helmet and Troy was wearing my glasses,” said Wyatt.
“He’s got a big heart,” Phil said of Timpano. “For him and Wyatt to be together the way they are, we never thought it would come this far, but we can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for Wyatt and all the time he has given. For him to do something like this, it’s unbelievable. It’s been a great experience not just for Wyatt but for us as well.”