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July 08, 2015

Hockey in the National Parks

This is the logo of the Jasper Wolves senior "AA" hockey team in Jasper, Alberta. The Wolves play in the North Central Hockey League in northern Alberta, playing teams like the Legal Vipers, Drayton Valley Wildcats, Fox Creek Bandits and the Slave Lake Winterhawks.

Long time readers of mine know how dear to my heart national parks, especially Jasper, are to me. People all around the world travel there to be amazed by nature. But not a lot of people are actually from there. The locals tend to be older transplants. There are not a lot of young families there.

So I guess it comes as no surprise that Jasper has not provided any significant names to the world of Hockey. Neighboring national park Banff (in the other Battle of Alberta) gave us Kevin and Ryan Smyth, while Garry Unger and Glen Sather are well known for their involvement in the community.

I was able to find only three players born in Jasper who made it to the NHL, albeit just for short stints in each case.

John "Too Tall" Hilworth was a 6'4" 205lb monster on skates. The right shooting defenseman got numerous chances with the lowly Detroit Red Wings in the 1970s, totalling 57 games over three seasons. He scored just one goal and one assist. Despite 89 penalty minutes, Hilworth was never aggressive enough for Detroit's liking, although he seemed to fare well enough in a scrap with Al Secord.

The former Medicine Hat Tigers standout continued in the minor leagues until 1985, though he missed an entire season with a scary eye injury.

Ian Herbers was another bid blue liner out of Jasper. At 6'4" 225lbs, Herbers was a late round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres. He was considered to be such a long shot to make it to the NHL that he opted to enroll at the University of Alberta in Edmonton instead of turning pro. He starred and matured with the Golden Bears, not unlike another U of A alumni, Randy Gregg. Like Gregg, upon graduation Herbers signed on with the Edmonton Oilers.

Herbers was destined for a lengthy minor league career. But he did get into 22 games with the Oilers in 1993-94. He got into another 37 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and 6 more with the New York Islanders in 1999-2000. In all that time he picked up just 5 assists, 3 of them in his final 6 games.

Herbers continues to coach in the minor leagues.

Brian Young appears to be the only other Jasper, Alberta born player in NHL history. The lanky defenseman played 8 games (collecting 2 assists) with Chicago in 1980-81.

An anonymous commenter provides more insight into the life of Brian Young:

I worked with Brian Young at Teck's Coal Mine near Cadomin called Cardinal River Coals. He was a heavy equipment operator who took the job after the town politics of Jasper forced him to close his guide business (how you can have a town council within a national park is beyond me but I digress).

Great guy, he told me one of his assists in the NHL was he was standing with the puck behind the net and Denis Savard skated by and took it up the ice and scored.

Brian lived in Jasper and drove out past Cadomin to work and home everyday.

Anyway, I bring these three gentlemen to your attention because for the next couple of weeks I will be heading to Jasper to hike, camp and relax.

In the mean time feel free to explore the vast archives here at GreatestHockeyLegends.com. I have approximately 2200 player profiles that should keep you busy while I'm gone!


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I worked with Brian Young at Teck's Coal Mine near Cadomin called Cardinal River Coals. He was a heavy equipment operator who took the job after the town politics of Jasper forced him to close his guide business (how you can have a town council within a national park is beyond me but I digress).

Great guy, he told me one of his assists in the NHL was he was standing with the puck behind the net and Denis Savard skated by and took it up the ice and scored.

Brian lived in Jasper and drove out past Cadomin to work and home everyday.

I grew up in nearby Hinton (20 minutes from Jasper East Park Gate). Players in the NHL from Hinton off the top of my head:

- Bob Nystrom
- Dean McCammond
- Brian Pellerin
- Dave Scatchard

Have a blast in Jasper, obviously I have spent a lot of time there. Head up the Grande Cache highway if you can (Hwy 40 North) and check out Jarvis, Gregg and Rock Lakes. Switzer provincial Park is great, and if you can stop in Brule and hit Ogre Canyon you will see something truly spectacular.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Brian Young played on Canada's 1978 World Junior Championship Team. Why is that significant? Well look at this roster:

Goal
1 Al Jensen
31 Tim Bernhardt

Defence
4 Craig Hartsburg
12 Rob Ramage
16 Brian Young
17 Willie Huber
22 Brad Marsh
34 Brad McCrimmon

Forwards
7 Tony McKegney
9 Wayne Gretzky
10 Steve Tambellini
11 Stan Smyl
14 Ryan Walter
15 Bobby Smith
19 Mike Gartner
20 Wayne Babych
23 Rick Vaive
25 Pat Daley
28 Rick Paterson
29 Curt Fraser

Now that is some talent.....

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