Minor hockey players having major fun in JHL
Three young guns have taken a big step in their Jasper hockey careers.
Now, whether it’s been a step up or step back is still up for debate, but Brandon Lawson, Jake Delorme and Bryn Malcolm, each 17-years-old, each members of the Midget Bearcats, have cracked the lineups of the Jasper Hockey League’s Beavers, Bongs and Royals, respectively.
Their impression so far? That the JHL is a mixed bag.
“I thought it would be a lot easier hockey,” said Lawson, who has watched the league for several years from the time keeper’s box. “But i’s a lot faster than it looks.”
It’s also a lot more competitive, learned Delorme. He’s quickly learning where the rivalries exist—whether it’s between two teams or individual players.
“It can go from friendly to instant rivalry,” he said.
Malcolm, who plays on the Royals, a team with a full roster, said he learned pretty quickly to shorten his shifts. He could be forgiven if he forgot not everybody skates six times a week.
“If you take too long of a shift, people freak out at you,” he laughed.
It’s a freaky league, alright. But Lawson, for one, likes the fact that all different skill levels are represented, “from dusters to ex-OHLers.”
What he doesn’t like is having to get up for his first period physics class after a 9:45 p.m. game. But since his teacher plays on the same team, he doesn’t have a lot of excuses to use.
“I’m trying to work on a five per cent increase on my mark if I score a goal,” he said. “No luck yet.”
Not that he’s not scoring. Lawson’s skilled hands have found the back of the net plenty of times this year for the Beavers. Playing in a non-contact league gives him a little extra room out there to stick handle. For Delorme, even though he can’t let go his cannon of a slap shot, he says the JHL is helping him learn to play smarter.
“I’m not always trying to just get the big hit,” he said.
“He’s not getting as many penalties, either,” Malcolm added.
To have had the opportunity to play with the Bongs, Beavers or Royals, the kids had to show they were committed to the Bearcats. In other words, they had to play midget if they wanted to play men’s league. It was a rule designed to keep the midget team in tact—respecting the time and effort that parents and kids put in to ice a competitive minor hockey team. However, this year, the league relaxed the stipulation to let 17-year-old Tristan Nissen play in the JHL on account of his not wanting to play hit hockey. Nissen, who had an injury-plagued 2014/15, didn’t feel like putting his body on the line again, and the league was sympathetic. The league has said they will revisit the issue next fall, depending on interest. (Unfortunately, Nissen was nursing a climbing injury when he started with the Beavers and he dislocated his shoulder in his fourth game—something that in all likelihood would have happened had he played contact. Regardless, he will now sit out the rest of the season.)
In the meantime, Delorme’s big presence and strength on the puck has allowed the Bongs to feel more secure with their back end; Malcolm adds another layer to the skilled grinders that make up most of the Royals’ squad; and Lawson gives the Beavers a versatile puck carrier who can snipe.
But if the boys are helping out their new teams, they’re getting something from the exchange, too—and not just extra ice time. As the trio earns their spurs in commercial hockey, they’re also enjoying meeting new pals.
“There’s a couple of beauties I’ve met who I didn’t know before and who I see around town now,” Delorme said.
Lawson and Malcolm agreed.
“It’s for the fun of the game,” Malcolm said. “But no coasting!”