‘A dream come true’: Ben Fisk returns home at last with Vancouver FC

More than a decade after first leaving Vancouver, Ben Fisk is coming home.

Fisk was officially unveiled on Tuesday as the first new signing of Vancouver FC’s 2024 off-season, as the veteran winger is set to become the first player to appear for four different Canadian Premier League clubs. After stints over the past five years at Pacific FC, Atlético Ottawa and, most recently, Cavalry FC, the 30-year-old is finally ready to bring his wealth of experience back to the city where it all began for him.

“It still feels pretty surreal, to be honest,” Fisk told after signing. “I’m home. I’m an East Van boy, this has always been a dream of mine to come finish my career at home. Honestly I’m more speechless than I’ve ever felt. But it’s been a bit of a long process.”

He added: “It’s honestly a dream come true. I think it’s a dream that I kind of forgot I had. Just the way my career has gone, of course you always have that idea, maybe I could go back to the Whitecaps and finish my career at home there, but that always seemed like a lot of things would have to fall into place to make that happen. Then VFC was launched and that opportunity and that dream got reignited for me.”

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Fisk’s career began in Vancouver, with the Whitecaps FC academy program, but he soon had to leave home in search of professional opportunities. Since first departing in 2013, he’s played in three other countries — the United States, Spain and Ireland — before becoming a founding player in the CPL’s inaugural season back in 2019.

When Vancouver FC first launched last year, there was naturally mutual interest for Fisk to return to his hometown club. He explained that the timing wasn’t quite right for him to join the expansion side in year one. Instead, he wanted to take another shot at silverware with a Cavalry side that had come close in both of his prior years there.

That part of the plan did, indeed, materialize. Cavalry went on to win the regular season by a record 13 points, and Fisk found himself lifting the CPL Shield at ATCO Field last October.

Fisk celebrates a goal against Vancouver FC while playing for Cavalry (Photo: CFC Media / Jack Cusano)

The whole time, though, Fisk had an eye on the fledgling club in Langley. The speed with which Vancouver FC made an impact in the community — as well as on the pitch — made a move back home feel increasingly plausible.

At last, this winter, the stars aligned for Fisk’s homecoming. He joked that Vancouver FC president Rob Friend is quite the popular figure in the Fisk household, having brought him “home” twice now — first to Canada and B.C. with Pacific FC, and now to his hometown team.

“I saw what they were able to build in year one, it was incredible — branding, marketing, the fanbase, and they put up a stadium in what, two months? It was all pretty incredible to watch from afar,” Fisk said of VFC’s development in 2023.

“The progression that they had last year from a rocky start to the last seven, eight, nine games of the season, I think they’re a team that nobody really wanted to play. They were picking up points off everyone, getting a lot of good results and ultimately it was maybe a bit late in the season for a playoff push but I saw a lot of things from afar that I was quite excited about.”

VFC were indeed one of the more impressive sides down the stretch in the 2023 CPL season, winning four of their last six games and playing the role of spoiler admirably amidst a heated playoff race.

It was actually a moment during that rocky start, however, that pushed things over the edge for Fisk. In early June, Cavalry visited Langley for the second time — Fisk missed their trip for VFC’s home opener with injury. Fisk made just his second start of the year in that game, and scored in what would end up a 5-1 Cavs win.

To Fisk, though, who had 50 to 60 friends and family members at Willoughby Community Park that day, it was more than just three points. That was the first pro game Fisk had played in his hometown in 10 years.

Now, he’ll have plenty more as he comes back to Vancouver for the final leg of his professional career.

Fisk’s intention is to make a strong impact on the young club, both on and off the pitch. He’s the latest representative of a deep-rooted club philosophy in Vancouver to provide professional opportunities to local players, and he’ll have plenty of experience and wisdom to offer the Eagles’ contingent of young B.C. talent.

He’ll likely fit right into VFC’s leadership group immediately, joining some of his closest friends including former Pacific teammate Kadin Chung and club captain (and longtime close friend) Callum Irving.

On the pitch, Fisk is keen to prove he still has a lot to offer as well. The playmaking winger has 10 goals under his belt in 89 CPL matches, plus 12 assists. Although he wasn’t always first choice in Cavalry’s starting XI — usually due to injury — he remains one of the best creative players the league has seen.

The 2023 campaign wasn’t the easiest season for Fisk on an individual level. He was limited to just 17 appearances (four starts) in all competitions as a variety of injuries — most notably a bout of sciatica in his leg that kept him out for much of the first three months of the season. According to him, it was perhaps the hardest year of his career with how long he spent on the sidelines.

“I feel like coming off the back of that season, mentally I’m in a better place than I’ve ever felt,” Fisk added. “I had a good chance to revamp my physical routines and how I take care of my body. I’d say mentally and physically, I’m in the best shape of my life and ready to have my best season ever.”

Fisk has plenty of time to make sure he’s in top shape for the 2024 season, but that first home game in a Vancouver FC shirt is going to creep up quickly.

Already, Fisk is imagining what it’ll be like walking out to represent his hometown on that day.

“Honestly I might shed a couple tears,” he said.

“It’s going to be pretty special, wearing this crest that when I was a kid growing up in East Van didn’t exist. There was not a whole lot of opportunities to play professional football in Canada, period.

“We did have the Whitecaps, and that was always something to look up to, but there’s something about what they’ve built here at VFC in a very short time that seals, this is my hometown club. This is the club that I want to be a part of now, helping it build on and off the field and be a part of it for the rest of my life. I want to help build that generational support, and in 20, 30 years, imagine how big this club can be.”

As Vancouver FC begin ramping up their roster build ahead of their second season, it feels right for Fisk to be the first newcomer.

At long last, Ben Fisk is home.