It was a bittersweet moment this summer when St. Albert Saints General Manager Marcel Viveiros got word that Mark Jackson would not be joining the club for the 1999-2000 season.
“I’m really happy for Mark. I’m sad to see him go but I wish him nothing but the best,” said Viveiros. “Mark’s another example of how successful our program has been over the years in terms of players earning hockey scholarships in the United States.”
While it was difficult to lose a budding superstar like Jackson, the role of the Alberta Junior Hockey League is to develop people and players alike for the challenges they may experience.
For Jackson, going to the University of Wisconsin and joining fellow Saints grads Steve Reinprecht (94-96), Dave Hukalo (95-98) and Scott Kabotoff (97-99) will certainly be a challenging endeavour – especially considering that he is entering the college one year earlier than expected.
“I’m very excited. It’s going to be great. I can’t wait. I want to get on with it and go to the next level,” Jackson told the St. Albert Gazette prior to departing for Madison in late August.
There were doubts over whether or not Jackson would be able to play with the Badgers this season as him joining the team hinged upon Carolina Hurricanes draft pick David Tanabe leaving the club to go pro. When Tanabe did leave, Jackson jumped at the opportunity. “It was frustrating just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring,” he said.
President/GM: Larry Kish
Coach: Terry Christensen
Southern Conference/Southeast Division
Last Season: 27-34-9
Leading Scorer: Brett Punchard 26-38- 64
Key Players: Matt Oates, Alexi Krovopuskov, Jeff McLean, Kimbi Daniels and Wes Swinson
Outlook: Injuries hurt the Tiger Sharks last year. Along with failed trades, an assistant coach leaving the team and the General Manager leaving before the season was over. Larry Kish brought his affiliations with the Montreal Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers with him. Terry Christensen is back behind the Tiger Sharks bench, after coaching the Miami Matadors last season. If Kish is able to secure quality players from the Habs and Oilers, the Tiger Sharks should make the playoffs.
Up Front: The only player in camp with a contract is Matt Oates (24-74-81 with Columbus 10th in the ECHL), if Jeff McLean shows up (24-26-50 with South Carolina and Tallahassee), Alexi Krovopuskov (6-9-15), Kimbi Daniels (11-28-39 with New Orleans), play together and stay injury free, the numbers they put-up could be staggering.
Defense: With only three non rookies in camp the Tiger Sharks are going to need to rely heavily on Wes Swinson (4-29-33, with Miami and Tallahassee) and Alexandre LaPorte (3-15-18 with Augusta and Tallahassee) to lead the defensive corps, providing they make the team. If Swinson stays healthy, he can direct the power play while LaPorte plays his stay at home defensive game.
Paul Jowett, in less than a year, went from being a depth forward on the St. Albert Saints hockey club to their top defenceman during the 1998-99 season.
Despite the extraordinary achievements made by Jowett during that short time frame, he has even higher expectations for himself as the 1999-2000 season moves into full force.
“I want to be a leader here. I want to make sure the team has a good year,” Jowett stated prior to the start of the year.
Back in 1997-98, Jowett’s outlook as a member of the St. Albert Saints hockey club was much different as his main goal was simply to make the club. Going into the season he had played for a short period in the SJHL and was a product of the St. Albert Minor Hockey system – having played for the St. Albert AAA Midget Elite Raiders.
Jowett played the majority of that season as a forward and did not make it past the January 10th AJHL roster freeze. He played 23 games, had two goals and seven assists for nine points as well as 40 penalty minutes during the Saints’ last championship season.
“It was a tough decision to make,” Saints General Manager Marcel Viveiros said about cutting Jowett.
He was back with the club to start the 1998-99 season, however, and made a huge impact upon arrival. While spotted on defence the year before, Jowett converted to the position full time and it was an remarkably successful transition.
Important players like Per Svartvadet, Hans Jonsson and Frantisek Kaberle have all left MoDo for North America and the NHL. Last season’s best goalie in SHL, Petter Ronnqvist did not want so sign a new contract and chose to play in Europe. But MoDo has signed some interesting players. Andreas Pihl is a big defender (102-kg) and he might fill some of the empty space after Jonsson in the defense. Canadian Joel Bouchard is a rushing defender and will be an important part in MoDos Power Play. But the most interesting rookie in MoDo and SHL this season is winger Mattias Weinhandl. Weinhandl played in the lower divisions last season and 11 out of 12 clubs in the SHL wanted his name on a contract, but he chose MoDo. He was born in 1980, just like the Sedins and was drafted in the middle of the third round by the Islanders.
MoDo has combined a new, very interesting line this season. Mattias Weinhandl has joined the Sedins and they have played great together. Weinhandl fits in superbly. He is an aggressive and very skilled player. He is also a right-shooter, and with that combination it makes him a perfect fit with the twins. Weinhandl is pure goalscorer, in my opinion, MoDos best since Markus Naslund. “The Sedin line” has begun the season very well and will be a big attraction during the winter. The line has actually played together earlier in their careers. The first time they played together was in the WJC’s last Christmas.
Jason Spezza is a name you are going to hear an awful lot of over the next two years. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he a 6′ 3″, 200 lb centre with the Mississauga Ice Dogs. He was born on June 13, 1983 and this right handed shot is the early favorite to go first overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
Spezza spent last year playing for the Brampton Battalion, as a 15 year old, under an OHL rule which allows underage players to play for their home town. All he did was lead the team in scoring; In 67 games he scored 22 times, added 49 assists for 71 points. He was then picked first overall by the Ice Dogs in the OHL draft.
The thing that hits you right away when you watch Spezza is his poise with the puck. He has the puck on his stick more times in one game than most other 16 year olds have in a month. He is most definitely the heart of the Ice Dog offence. The player most likely to benefit the most from Spezza’s passes this year is Chad Wiseman, who has lined up on left wing beside Spezza in the early going, and he should vastly improve on his 11 goal performance of last year.