It’s special when a high school athlete plays his greatest game on Senior Night.
When a high school hockey player plays his greatest game, including a hat trick, on Senior Night 14 months after suffering a devastating injury, it’s borderline miraculous.
Ellis Bern has been the Homewood-Flossmoor High School hockey club’s miracle man all season long.
He scored his hat trick three goals in H-F’s 4-1 victory over the Cobras Jan. 27 at the Homewood-Flossmoor Ice Arena. H-F plays in the Illinois High School Hockey League – Hayes Suburban Division.
“Oh yeah, this is one of the most special games. Some of my teammates said it was the greatest game I ever played,” Ellis said. “You have to be at the right place at the right time and that’s kind of what happened.”
The injury occurred on Nov. 8, 2015, recalled Ellis’s father, Lester Bern, of Flossmoor.
“Thirty seconds into a game on away-ice he was checked from behind and fractured his knee and broke his femur,” he said. “A plate and twelve screws were placed in surgery the next day.”
“We are blessed to have had the physicians at Loyola (University Medical Center) who did remarkable work,” said Gianna Bern, Ellis’ mother. “Special thanks to Dr. Mitchell Bernstein, an orthopedic surgeon, and the whole team at Loyola.
“This was a hockey accident,” she added. “He has amazing strength. His coach and the team helped us through, and so did all the parents. They helped us through this whole past year.”
Ellis had a long road back to the ice. He looked forward to returning but wasn’t sure how well he would be able to play.
“I didn’t have doubt that I would be able to play hockey, but I did have doubt I would be the same player,” he said. “I always felt like I could recover from it, but I was concerned I might not be able to skate as fast. I ended up having the best season I ever had. I came back even stronger.”
Ellis and his parents recall the outpouring of support that helped all of them through a very difficult time.
Wayne Perry, H-F’s head coach, said immediately after the hit Ellis was aware of the severity of the injury, but told him: “It’s going to be OK, I’m OK.”
Perry said Ellis stayed involved with the team throughout his rehabilitation.
“He never took a day off,” Perry said.
Gianna also noted how Ellis’ teachers came to his aid.
“The H-F faculty really rallied around Ellis,” Gianna said. “Through the remainder of his junior year, there were many house calls when his teachers came by to tutor him. He was schooled at home for most of his junior year. It was H-F’s teachers who helped get him through this.”
At the core of Ellis Bern’s support network were his three senior teammates — Colin Beer, Johnathon Hammill and Mason McCoy, the team captain. Coach Perry said each one stepped up and did a great job on the ice, as well as supporting and encouraging Ellis.
“The final migration is what we call it,” Ellis explained. “The final migration to our senior year. We went into our senior year determined to support each other.”
Support is a concept that Ellis understands fully.
“I experienced incredible support. I can’t even find the words to express it. Every one of my friends, my physical therapist, they all encouraged me to never give up and work really hard,” he said.
The H-F club still has some work to do. The club has a 10-4 record with a handful of regular season games remaining before the playoffs begin in mid-February.
Beyond the hockey season, Ellis will continue with his plans to attend Indiana University at Indianapolis as a business major specializing in marketing.
Will he work hockey into his college regimen?
“I’m split right now,” Ellis said. “I want to get my time management in control, college will be all new. We’ll see how I might be able to work it in next spring.”
Whatever his hockey future, Ellis Bern has left his mark with his many friends and family.
“To see him on the ice tonight, to see his hat trick, it’s just great,” his mom said. “It’s an amazing story when you think about it.”
The story is Ellis Bern’s miracle on ice.