Hockey’s given Eberle more than a few Pats on the back
Jordan Eberle was ‘good’ long before he was ‘lucky.’
REGINA — Jordan Eberle was ‘good’ long before he was ‘lucky.’
Even so, Eberle refuses to dismiss the latter as playing a significant role in his brief but charmed hockey career. The signs of fortuity are sprinkled throughout his swelling resume, highlighted by a timely run with Team Canada that culminates in his own backyard at the 2010 world junior hockey championship in Saskatchewan.
“Not many guys get the opportunity to play in one world juniors; I’ve got it twice,” marvelled the Regina native, who leads Canada into Saturday’s tournament opener against Latvia. “To play in my home province will be special. Obviously there’s pressure but I’ve played here my whole life and there has always been pressure as a hometown kid. I’m exciting for the opportunity to win a gold medal again.”
Eberle has certainly demonstrated a Midas touch, but his good fortune isn’t limited to Team Canada.
Consider how many kids dream of playing for their favourite team but never achieve it. Eberle has played for three of them — the WHL’s Regina Pats, the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and the national junior team — all before his 20th birthday.
“It seems like everything is going my way,” he said with a smile.
Eberle’s dominoes began to fall in the spring of 2005 when the Pats selected him — make that stole him — in the seventh round of the WHL bantam draft. Three years later, another dream was realized when his beloved Oilers selected him in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2008 NHL entry draft. Just six months after that, Eberle became a national hero by helping lead Canada to its fifth straight gold medal at the world juniors. In the process, he etched his name in Canadian hockey lore with one of the biggest goals in the country’s storied history — a game-tying marker with 5.4 seconds left in the third period of a semifinal clash with Russia.
The architect of “The Goal” rode his momentum all the way to Edmonton’s training camp in the fall, during which he played four NHL pre-season games and nearly convinced the Oilers’ brass that he was ready for prime time. Upon returning to the junior ranks, Eberle wasted no time cementing his position as the WHL’s premier goal scorer and earning another lead role with Team Canada.
Eberle doesn’t know how much longer his luck will hold, but he is certain that he won’t forget where it started.
“I grew up watching the Pats — I had cousins who played for the Pats and we had season tickets,” Eberle said of his hometown club, which has contributed 20 players — more than any other franchise — to the national junior team. “You look at the guys who’ve gone through the organization, guys I’ve watched like Brad Stuart, Josh Holden, Garth Murray, the list goes on, that’s something pretty special when you’re in the same category with those guys. I owe a lot to the Regina Pats. They’ve really gotten me where I am. It’s an honour to represent them.”
Eberle’s ambassadorial status is no longer restricted to the Pats, who now find themselves sharing him with the rest of the hockey world. Hard to believe that just four years ago he was one of Regina’s best-kept secrets, albeit one who had already been on the radar of Al Murray for some time.
“He’s the same age as one of my sons so they played some minor hockey together,” offered Murray, Hockey Canada’s Regina-based head scout. “He was always the best player through minor hockey and one of those players who played in the summer tournaments against all the best players in the country and was always the best player in that situation too. I’ve had the opportunity to watch two guys grow up. I saw Steve Yzerman in Ottawa when I lived there and I saw Jordan Eberle here (in Regina). Both had hockey sense and poise and the ability to play the game well above their age group. Everybody sees that young star player (in their own rink) and they say, ‘He has a chance to be good.’ But when you see the real stars and you’ve had a chance to see it before, you know there’s something special about that player.”
Eberle fits that category to a tee — affirming the belief that good things happen to good people.
No luck required.
“You hope for nothing but the best for a player like him,” added Murray, who recently called Eberle the best player in the CHL. “It has been lots of fun to watch him grow up and develop into the great young guy he is. He’s a terrific person off the ice in addition to being a great player on the ice. He’s got the whole package.”