Junior hockey players often have big dreams.
Then there’s Jermaine Loewen of the Kamloops Blazers, who has Olympic-sized dreams.
Loewen, a 17-year-old sophomore with the Blazers, is from Arborg, Man.; at least, that’s where his family lives. But he’s
really a native of Jamaica, from where he was adopted out of an orphanage by Tara and Stan Loewen.
Jermaine began playing minor hockey at 10 years of age so the fact that he is playing regularly with the Blazers is a story in itself.
These days, though, he sometimes finds himself dreaming about the Olympic Winter Games. That’s because the Jamaican Olympic Ice Hockey Federation is getting serious about things.
“I’m really excited that the Olympic committee has made progress that way,” Loewen said. “To have an Olympic team is huge, especially the fact that we’re so small. I’m really happy that they’re making progress.”
Yes, Jamaica, a country of fewer than 2 million people, is talking about Olympic hockey.
Graeme Townshend, the JOIHF’s head coach, was the first Jamaican-born player in NHL history. From Kingston, his pro career ran from 1989-99 and included stints with the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators. He has told the Toronto Star that Jamaica is hopeful of icing a team in the Winter Olympics at some point in the next 20 years.
“If we can pull this off, you’re looking at an inspiring story and the idea that anything is accomplishable if you put your mind to it,” he told The Star. “If Jamaica can get a team in the World Championships or the Olympics, that’s like a miracle. It’s something that’s so outlandish that I think it actually might work.”
According to The Star, Towshend hopes to have a team together that will tour over the approaching summer in an attempt to gain exposure and sponsorship money.
Jamaica has been an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since May 18, 2012. It was the first Caribbean nation to be admitted. The lack of an indoor arena is one of the things keeping it from becoming a full member.
Of course, Loewen has heard the stories about the Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
At the same time, though, he knows there’s a lot of road to travel to get Jamaica’s hockey program there. But a guy can dream, can’t he?
“Oh yeah . . . I definitely dream about it . . . maybe someday going and playing for that,” Loewen said. “There still is a lot of stuff to work out to get to that level.
“It’s a pretty big deal. I find it really cool.”
Loewen and his Blazers teammates will play two home games this week, completing a post-Christmas stretch in which they played six of seven games in the Sandman Centre.
They will meet the Prince George Cougars tonight (Wednesday) — the game will be televised by Shaw — and the Tri-City Americans on Friday. Both games are to start at 7 o’clock.
The Cougars went into last weekend as one of the WHL’s hottest teams, having gone 10-3-0 in December, including 6-2-0 on the road. However, they then were beaten twice at home by the Vancouver Giants — 4-1 and 5-3.
The December push has the Cougars (23-14-2) in third place in the B.C. Division, seven points ahead of the Blazers (18-14-5), who are 1-3-1 since the Christmas break.
With three defencemen unavailable, the Blazers have added Travis Verveda, 18, for perhaps the next four games. He had four assists in 28 games with the Blazers last season, but this season is playing for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. He has five assists in 22 games there.
Dallas Valentine and Dawson Davidson are out with undisclosed injuries, while Patrik Maier, who played for Slovakia at the World Junior Championship, will rejoin the team on Monday as it travels from Portland to Medicine Hat.
After entertaining the Americans on Friday night, the Blazers will head to Portland for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader with the Winterhawks. Kamloops then heads into Alberta for three games, starting Jan. 13 against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
En route to Medicine Hat, the Blazers will spend some time in Kimberley, with Maier to fly into Cranbrook.
JUST NOTES: F Chase Witala of the Cougars was named the WHL’s player of the month for December after putting up 14 goals and nine assists in 13 games. . . . Prince George F Jesse Gabrielle also had a hot December, as he scored nine times and added nine assists. . . . G Connor Ingram of the Blazers is the WHL’s goaltender of the month for December. He was 6-3-1, 2.09, .937 with one shutout. . . . Kamloops has returned D Luke Zazula and F Brodi Stuart, both 15, to the Delta Hockey Academy’s midget prep program. Zazula had one assist in three games with the Blazers; Stuart didn’t see game action. . . . The Cougars will be without F Colby McAuley as he serves Game 2 of a three-game suspension for a hit on Vancouver F Trevor Cox on Saturday. . . . The Cougars could have F Jackson Leppard, their first-round selection, eighth overall, in the 2015 bantam draft, in their lineup. He has been added from the major midget Vancouver-Northwest Giants.
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