Pats fans ready to say goodbye to Eberle

 

 
 
 
 
WHL Pats players (L-R) Mitch McColm #5, Jordan Eberle #7 and Brandon Davidson #3 during practice at the Brandt Centre in Regina on Mar 11, 2010.
 

WHL Pats players (L-R) Mitch McColm #5, Jordan Eberle #7 and Brandon Davidson #3 during practice at the Brandt Centre in Regina on Mar 11, 2010.

Photograph by: Don Healy for Regina Leader-Post, Canwest News Service

REGINA — The Regina Pats won’t be punching a ticket to the Western Hockey League playoffs, but they are anticipating a sellout for their final home game of the season.

Jordan Eberle might have something to do with it.

Friday night’s meeting between the Pats and the Brandon Wheat Kings will be the last chance for local hockey fans to say goodbye to a hometown hockey hero.

Eberle’s farewell has transformed a meaningless game into the hottest ticket in town — and he hopes to give the fans their money’s worth.

“I want to cap it off with something special,” offered the 19-year-old sniper, who took part in his final practice with the Pats on Thursday.

“It’ll be a little weird playing my last game at the Brandt Centre. Four years have flown by so quickly. Coming in as a 16-year-old, playing my first game here, I remember looking up in the stands and seeing where I used to sit. Now I’ll come back (Friday night) and think of all the success I’ve had in this rink and how much fun it has been.”

Eberle isn’t the only person in the mood for reminiscing. Pats captain Colten Teubert is equally nostalgic about the farewell performance of the Pats’ odd couple — a dynamic duo which has become virtually inseparable over the past four seasons while sharing numerous experiences, including back-to-back tours with Canada at the IIHF world junior hockey championship.

“It’s too bad we have to go our separate ways,” said Teubert. “When we were 16 we battled in practice every day. He knows how to push my buttons. It’s a brother relationship. I’m going to miss him a lot.”

So will the entire Pats franchise.

“In my 15 years, he’s the best player we’ve had in terms of the whole package, his leadership, his on-ice abilities, the type of person he is, everything,” offered general manager Brent Parker. “What he has meant to the organization has been huge.

“He’s the type of person that you dream of having in terms of a guy who can be the face of your franchise. I hope we can hit the jackpot with another guy like that but it’s fair to say those type of people and athletes don’t grace you very often. They’re rare individuals. The fact that he’s a local kid really adds to it. Everyone has a Jordan Eberle story that they can’t wait to tell.”

The best of them all might belong to Pats director of scouting Todd Ripplinger, who selected Eberle in the seventh round of the 2005 WHL bantam draft. His selection with the 126th overall pick will go down as arguably the biggest steal in team history.

“When he was eight years old, he was this phenom coming up,” said Ripplinger. “He always had talent. (Now) he’s one of the all-time greats.”

The knock on Eberle was always his size, listed at about five-foot-six and 120 pounds when the Pats drafted him in 2005. Ripplinger jokingly remembers thinking at the time that Eberle never missed on breakaways, so at the very least he’d be good in shootouts.

Little did he know Eberle would eventually blossom into a world junior MVP, a first-round NHL draft pick and one of the best clutch scorers in Team Canada history.

“If he grew, we thought he’d be a good player — first- or second-line guy,” added Ripplinger. “But I never thought he’d play in the world juniors and all that stuff. If anybody tells you that — about any player — they’re full of it. You don’t know.”

Turns out size didn’t matter for Eberle, who’s now ranked eighth on the Pats’ all-time goals list (153) and 12th in points (308). Heading into his 253rd career game Friday night, he leads the league with 104 points and is just two goals away from 50.

“I came into my first training camp not even expecting to make the team,” recalled the Edmonton Oilers’ top prospect, who’s on the verge of securing the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s top scorer. “I kind of just came in for the experience, had a good camp, ended up staying and ended up doing well. It has been a whirlwind ever since.”

Regina Leader-Post
 
 
 
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WHL Pats players (L-R) Mitch McColm #5, Jordan Eberle #7 and Brandon Davidson #3 during practice at the Brandt Centre in Regina on Mar 11, 2010.
 

WHL Pats players (L-R) Mitch McColm #5, Jordan Eberle #7 and Brandon Davidson #3 during practice at the Brandt Centre in Regina on Mar 11, 2010.

Photograph by: Don Healy for Regina Leader-Post, Canwest News Service

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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