When it comes to hockey, it doesn’t matter how or when you fell in love with the game. It’s a life-long passion that runs deep with tradition and meaning. It often exceeds your expectations and goes well beyond what a sixty-minute game has to offer.
It’s about dreams, friendship, dedication and perseverance. Not all hockey players are fortunate to earn a living doing what they love. It’s that one-in-a-million opportunity, and even when you step onto NHL approved ice, wearing an official NHL approved jersey, it’s surreal.
It’s every ‘hockey lovers’ dream, whether it comes true or not. Dedication and hard-work are a must and there are no guarantees, no matter how skilled you may be. If you’re lucky enough to reach the highest level in professional hockey, count your blessings. Very few make it and those that do, need every ounce of effort possible to stick around. Oshawa, Ontario is home to some incredibly gifted athletes, especially when it comes to hockey.
The Oshawa Generals Hockey Club is a treasured commodity throughout the city. Their fans are extremely dedicated to the Ontario Hockey League team, win or lose. So, it’s easy to see why the Oshawa Generals are of historical significance to the city of Oshawa.
That said, they’ve also played an integral role in the development of future NHL players. Oshawa native and former Oshawa Generals player, Jim Jackson, is no stranger to the importance of junior hockey.
Jim’s journey began with the Oshawa Generals, of the OHL. He knew what he wanted and understood that it doesn’t necessarily happen over-night. There’s a process, no matter your skill level. It takes hard-work and perseverance to obtain such lofty goals.
“I was pursuing my dream and a goal of mine, and one of the steps is to play junior hockey.” While his tenure in the OHL didn’t finish with the Generals, his time with the hockey club helped lay the foundation and helped to put him one step closer to reaching his ultimate-goal.
“When you’re from that town and you grew up in that town, and people have seen you play before, you don’t want to let them down. But it’s exciting.”
After short stints in the Eastern Hockey League and International Hockey League, Jim caught the eye of a Canadian NHL hockey team, the Calgary Flames. All his hard-work and persistence finally paid-off.
In 1982, he was given the chance to lace-up for the Calgary Flames and determined to give them a reason to keep him around. He played 48 games for the club that season, accumulating 20 points within that span and a plus/minus of 9.
He was fortunate to be included in the team’s playoff efforts that season also, putting up three points in 8 games played.
Describing what it feels like to play in the NHL for the first time, Jim had this to say, “Once you get there and you step on the ice, it’s the most amazing feeling and your hearts pounding, and excitement. You feel like a kid in a candy store.”
It was a solid start to his NHL career. Unfortunately, like many others, short-lived. It was during a game in Washington, D.C. when his career came to a screeching halt.
Jim had, not to sugar-coat anything, snapped his leg in half. All the hard-work, tireless hours of practice and conditioning, virtually laid-to-waste.
“It’s all part of it, right? You play a sport and you know, you have a break, getting injured in a sport.” A tough break to say the least. “Mine happened in Washington and I snapped my leg in half. And when that happened, it kind of put my ‘NHL Days’ aside.”
It wasn’t the end of his playing days, but certainly shortened an NHL player’s lifespan. He would play a total of 3 NHL seasons with the Calgary Flames, a handful or so with the Buffalo Sabres, and a bunch played in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans.
It may not be the ‘fairly tale ending’ he’d hoped for, but this story does have a happy ending. While with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, Jim was fortunate to play on a championship caliber hockey team. The Americans, thanks in-part to Jackson’s heroics, went on to capture the 1986-87 Calder Cup Championship.
It was the fifth Calder Cup won by the franchise at the time, and one of six in total. The team’s success may have led Jackson to another brief stint in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres, but something tells me he wouldn’t trade that championship in for a longer career in the NHL.
“I would say the most exciting in hockey that’s ever happened too me, is winning the Calder Cup.” It isn’t ‘Lord Stanley’s Cup’, but it’s pretty darn close!
As many retired hockey players do, Jim stayed involved in the hockey world. Whether it was working side-by-side with his wife and her hockey training school, or coaching women’s hockey, he’s always had a passion and love for the game.
Now, the coach of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League ‘Markham Thunder’, he’s been able to share hockey wisdom with many talented hockey players. The Markham Thunder had a ‘Cinderella Story’ season once moving from Brampton, capturing their first Clarkson Cup Championship in team history and doing so under the guidance of head-coach Jim Jackson (shown on the right in the photo).
Through the ups and downs of a storied professional hockey career, which transitioned into coaching, he was able to experience incredible moments, that some of us can only imagine.
“I look back at my opportunity that I had, to play in the NHL, the American League, and you know, a bunch of leagues. And you know what? I had a great experience.”
It wasn’t only about reaching the highest level or playing for an NHL team, there was more to the story and it contributed to life outside of hockey. “I had a great opportunity to play for a lot of great hockey teams, the Calgary Flames, the Buffalo Sabres, you know, the Rochester Americans. I had an opportunity to play for these great hockey teams. Not only to play for the teams, but too meet a lot of amazing people, that helped me.”
Hockey has more to offer than meets the eye, it helps build friendships and develop, not only as a player, but as a human being. You take so much of it with you when you’re finished playing, that can be considered invaluable experiences and overall, priceless memories.
“So, you know what I take out of it, is the friendships I made, you know. I pursued a dream and a goal, and I’ve reached that goal and that dream to play in the NHL.”
Growing and changing as a person is an inevitable part of life, whether it’s becoming a brother, father, husband, or even a professional athlete. It takes drive, perseverance, dedication, and a passion to succeed.
If you want something badly enough and have the heart to get there, no matter how many people tell you that “It’s never going to happen,” and “You’re living in a dream world.”, just remember this, it does happen. Goals are set for a reason.
If you work hard enough and put your talents to good-use, anything’s possible. Take it from a man that’s accomplished the ‘impossible’. “It’s just like, it just becomes natural. And you just start becoming yourself as a player, and everything just becomes natural. It was, it was a dream come true.”