When Canadian ice hockey player Nate Fleming joined Edinburgh Capitals this summer, he was excited at getting the opportunity to explore the country of his father’s birth. What he didn’t expect, though, was to discover he would soon be sharing the ice with one of his relatives.
After rejecting professional contracts from North America in favour of a move to Edinburgh, Fleming, 26, from Vancouver, posted a tweet in which he spoke of his desire to visit his dad’s home town of Neilston in Ayrshire. That tweet was spotted by his new Caps team-mate, James Wallace – a native of Neilston – who, after some investigation, discovered that the duo were third cousins.
Now the pair will line up together when the Capitals open their season with a Challenge Cup clash against Belfast Giants at Murrayfield Ice Rink on Saturday night (face-off 5.30pm).
Defenceman Fleming, who can also play as a forward, said: “James and his mum are the ones who figured out that we are related. It’s such a wild coincidence. I never thought for one second that by playing hockey in Scotland I would end up playing with a cousin of mine. It really is a small world, I guess.
“Playing in the UK, especially Scotland, was very important to me as my dad James and I have always spoken about taking a trip here together. And now with this news, both he and my grandpa Adam are planning to come and visit. It’s just unbelievable that my dad and James’ mum grew up together before my dad left for Canada with my grandpa when he was just six years old.
“My dad obviously doesn’t have as many memories of Scotland as my grandpa, who even before I signed for Edinburgh was telling me stories of watching the Paisley Pirates play.”
Wallace, who joined Edinburgh last season in a five-year deal from Solway Sharks, explained the family connection. He said: “It was my girlfriend who first noticed Nate had signed, and tagged me when he tweeted that he couldn’t wait to get started with the Caps and that he was looking forward to visiting his dad’s home town of Neilston. Neilston is the town where I was born and have lived all my days.
“It led to me messaging him, explaining that’s where I was from, offering to show him around, and asking if he had any family left in the village. We got to talking and were coming back to each other with the same names, which led to us finding out that his great gran Martha Hunter, and my great gran Eliza Hunter were sisters. Which makes us third cousins, I think.
“It’ll be great to show him round the village. My mum even knows the house where Nate’s dad and grandfather grew up. His grandpa and my grandpa also worked together for a long time so there are a lot of connections.”
Wallace, whose first year in Edinburgh was severely curtailed when he suffered a serious knee injury playing in his first-ever game for the club’s Scottish National League side, did make fleeting appearances towards the tail end of last season, but revealed it is only in the last two months that he feels fully recovered.
“I’m just going to do the best that I can and work towards getting more ice time and, hopefully, have an injury-free year.
“I’m as close to a full recovery as I think I will ever be. I did a lot of leg work over the summer and I’ve not had what I used to call a ‘bad knee day’ in a while. Sometimes you would just wake up and you would know it just wasn’t going to be a good day, but I’ve been working hard and I’ve not had one of them in two months now.”
“Season wise, I think it’s going to be a good year for us both at Elite and SNL level. Emo (Capitals player/coach Riley Emmerson) has brought in a great team and, from my perspective, it’s all about learning and picking their brains as much as I can. These guys have a great in-depth knowledge of the game and that can only help me.”