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Moose Tracks with Jason King
-Dennis Leary for www.halifaxmooseheads.ca
Jason King was born and raised in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. He grew up playing hockey on the Rock and when the best 16 and 17-year-olds from the Atlantic Provinces and Quebec were getting drafted into the QMJHL, Jason King’s name was not called at the 1997 or 1998 drafts. King didn’t let that derail his hopes of playing Major Junior hockey and put together a stellar year (averaging 3 points a game) in his final year of midget with his Western Kings team. The Mooseheads took notice and invited King to their 1999 training camp as a free-agent. After a solid performance at camp he earned a spot on the team.
In his first season with the Mooseheads under coach Bob Mongrain, Halifax finished in second place in their division (41-20-6-5) and hosted the Memorial Cup which was won by Brad Richards and his Rimouski Oceanic. King played a fourth line role in 63 games (including playoffs) during his rookie season and managed 10 points (3 goals and 7 assists). Shawn MacKenzie took over as Head Coach and saw potential in King and gave the now 19 year-old a more prominent role in the Mooseheads offense. MacKenzie put King on a line with Brandon Benedict and his production jumped dramatically in his second season. King went on to lead the team in scoring with 98 points (48 goals, 50 assists). Those kind of offensive numbers in the QMJHL usually warrant a call from the NHL. Vancouver Canucks GM at the time Brian Burke drafted King in the 7th Round, 212th overall at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
King returned to Halifax for the 2001/2002 season. As a 20-year-old he used his deceptive speed and his remarkable ability with the puck down low around the net to score the second most goals (single season) in Mooseheads history. King tallied 63 goals while adding 36 assists for a Wayne Gretzky tribute of 99 points. In his final season in Halifax, King, Brandon Benedict and Robbie Sutherland led the Mooseheads into the 2nd round of the QMJHL playoffs. Their second round series against their provincial rivals the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles was a memorable battle as King and Benedict tired to solve Cape Breton’s up-and-coming goalie by the name of Marc-Andre Fleury who got the best of the Mooseheads. Fleury led Cape Breton to a six game series win over Halifax, bringing an end to Jason King’s QMJHL career.
Seeing your name on an NHL roster is a notable accomplishment to achieve but King was able to play eight games (0 goals, 2 assists) with the Vancouver Canucks during his first professional season. He spent the majority of the year in the AHL with Vancouver’s farm team the Manitoba Moose where he proved he could play at the professional level scoring 20 goals and added 20 assists for 40 points in 67 games.
2003/2004 was a special year for the King as he earned a spot on the Canucks roster at just 22-years-of-age. Head Coach Marc Crawford played the Newfoundlander in 47 NHL games on a line with highly touted Swedish twin brothers, Henrik and Daniel Sedin. With the Sedins, King would score 12 goals and collect 9 assists for 21 NHL points while being named the NHL Rookie of the month in November. He would get to play one game in the Canucks thrilling seven-game first-round series loss to Jarome Iginla and his Calgary Flames.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Vinnick
King would spend the next two seasons with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL. He continued his consistent offensive production scoring a combined total of 45 goals and 41 assists for 86 points in 95 games over the two seasons. King was then faced with a problem; he was unable to reach a contract agreement with the Canucks to stay in the AHL, King took his talents overseas for the 2006/2007 season accepting an offer to play for Skelleftea HC in the Swedish Elite League.
After a year in Sweden, during the 2007 off-season Vancouver traded King’s rights along with a conditional draft pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Ryan Shannon. This meant a return to the AHL after signing with the Ducks AHL affiliate the Portland Pirates. Re-energized to be playing back in North America, King would have his personal best professional season finishing second in scoring on the Pirates with 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) in 65 games. His strong play earned him another taste of NHL action in the form of a four game call-up to the Ducks.
Another season meant another change of scenery for King, who went back to Europe, this time for a three year stint in the German Elite League. His first stop in 2008/2009 he played for Dave King on the Mannheim Eagles. King then shifted to Hamburg in his second year in the DEL to play for the Freezers where he finished second in team scoring with 25 goals and 23 assists in 53 games.
Photo courtesy of HARDT
During the spring of 2011, the owners of King’s old team the Manitoba Moose (True North Sports & Entertainment) purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and returned the NHL to Manitoba with the second version of the Winnipeg Jets. With an NHL franchise back in Winnipeg, True Sports and Entertainment decided to migrate the Moose east to King’s home province of Newfoundland where they became the St. John’s IceCaps. With an AHL team now in King’s former backyard he began talks with his former General Manager Craig Heisinger about a return to the AHL and his home
Much to the delight of him and his family King and the IceCaps were able to reach a deal allowing him to return home as a professional hockey player. King and the IceCaps’ first season in Newfoundland was a huge success. With strong fan support the team finished first in the Atlantic Division with an impressive 43-25-5-3 record. King would score 22 goals and added 19 assists during 70 regular season games and helped the team go on an exciting playoff run that took them to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals the IceCaps were swept by the unstoppable Norfolk Admirals who would go on to capture the 2011/2012 Calder Cup.
Photo Courtesy of True North Sports and Entertainment
For a player who got started in Moose Country, King has spent seven seasons of his hockey career proudly wearing a Moose on his chest. He still seems to be at home in front of the net in another place known for their large Moose population and King couldn’t be happier looking forward to his second season in St.John’s as a member of the St. John’s IceCaps.
Jason King Q&A
Q: As a kid what hockey player did you idolize?
A: Joe Sakic
Q: What to do remember most about your three seasons in Halifax?
A: Looking back now, I would have to say it was the most fun I have had in three years of hockey, I really enjoyed my time in Halifax. My first year there we hosted the Memorial Cup and there was no extra pressure it was about going out there having fun playing hockey in front of great crowds.
Q: Was there a specific game or moment that you will never forget about when you were a Moosehead?
A: In my last season in Halifax (2001-2002) I scored 5 goals in one game againt Baie-Comeau, it was great because I got to share that experience with my billet family, it was pretty special.
Q: How did your experience with the Mooseheads prepare you for your professional hockey career?
A: It had everything to do with me turning pro, Shawn MacKenzie was instrumental with my career, he taught us a professional game at the junior level. The whole organization is a first class organization and they treat their players the same as I have been treated everywhere I have gone as a pro.
Q: Is there any teammates from your QMJHL days that you are still good friends with? If so who?
A: There is always guys you check up on..I am still in touch with Ryan Flynn, I was really good friends with Brandon Benedict as well as Robbie Sutherland who were my teammates of a few years in Halifax.
Q: Who is the most memorable player you have ever played with and why?
A: Mike Keane in both Vancouver and Manitoba, I was a young player starting out in that franchise and he took me under his wing and really helped me a lot. He was a real character and was pretty tough on me which helped me learn how to be a pro.
Q: Who is the most impressive player you have ever played against?
A: Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman were both still in their primes when I was in Vancouver, they were impressive to play against.
Q: Was your first goal with the Vancouver Canucks your most memorable?
A: Yeah for sure, it’s a pretty special moment for any player, its something you always dream about scoring an NHL goal.
Q: What is the best advice any of your former coaches ever gave you? Who was that coach?
A: It was actually my coach in Halifax, Shawn MacKenzie taught us it was important to lead by example, its simple but it made a difference for me.
Q: What has it been like being part of what has been a successful return of professional hockey to your home province of Newfoundland?
A: Its been amazing, it was a crazy year. Very emotional, I think every player would love to be able to play pro hockey where they are from, its up there definitely in the highlights of my career.
Q: You played four seasons with the Manitoba Moose from 2002 to 2006, what happened after you heard they were moving to Newfoundland that gave you the opportunity to rejoin your old team?
A: I was still in contact with Craig Heisinger who is the GM of the Moose turned IceCaps and the dream was always there to come back. When I went to Europe it was more of a family decision because going over seas made the most sense at the time. I am happy Craig and I were able to work something out that worked for both of us.
Q: What was it like playing hockey in the European Elite Leagues from your experiences in Sweden and Germany?
A: Its different, totally a different game over there. We really enjoyed our four years in Europe but when you’re playing hockey in Canada everybody eat sleeps and breaths it, it makes it more exciting to play the game.
Q: What has your professional hockey career meant to you?
A: Its made me into the person I am today, playing hockey is fun in itself but playing it for a living tests and brings out your personality. It’s been a challenge and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Q: What is the funniest prank or joke that you have been a part of in your hockey career that you can share?
A: This year, we took the plugs out of Brett Festerling’s stick and filled it with water, he didn’t know what was wrong until he started to do his first drill, it was funny.
Q: How many teeth have you lost playing hockey?
A: Oh yeah, four in total.
Q: What is the best nickname for a line you’ve played on?
A: There’s been some good one’s but “The Mattress Line” when I played with the Sedins in Vancouver. Two twins and King.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: I’d like to throw a shout out and thank the Lynch family who was my billet family in Halifax. They are a tremendous family that really helped me to get where I am today. They took me in as if I was one of their own and they are just great people.
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