Former NMU icer Matt Thurber dies

OMAHA, Neb. — A former Northern Michigan University hockey player died Tuesday morning.

Matt Thurber passed away at age 28 in Omaha, Nebraska.

According to a Wednesday article in the Bakersfield Californian, where he played a year of minor-league professional hockey, the nature of his death has yet to be disclosed, but an obituary said it was “unexpected.”

A forward, Thurber played two seasons at NMU after transferring from Wisconsin in 2011 and before that, he played three years for the U.S. Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers.

He bounced back at Northern and finished his Wildcats’ career with 62 points and also led the team in both assists (26) and points (32) in the 2012-13 season.

From there, Thurber moved on to the ECHL minor pro league, where he played one season with the Bakersfield Condors. He finished that year with 11 goals and 42 points, then retired from playing organized hockey. His obituary said that Thurber still stayed around the sport, though, as he coached youth hockey in Omaha.

Thurber suffered a torn esophagus in April 2014 before a playoff game in Utah.

In the Californian article, Thurber said in May of that year that he “got out of bed at 4 o’clock and just started puking blood.” After getting to the emergency room, he was airlifted to a critical care unit in another hospital. However, Thurber was back to the Condors in a playoff game in Stockton, California.

The obituary also said that Thurber is survived by his wife Lizz and a daughter, Sylvie Rae. Visitation will take place Friday in Omaha and a funeral is set for Saturday.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is