Tomas Jurco came down the right wing, did a spin move to shake off pressure, and floated a blind pass in front to no one.
He rolled to the front of the net from the corner. The puck bounced and found its way to his stick. Jurco let a snap shot go. It was deflected into the netting.
Remember that commercial of Ndamukong Suh driving around in his Chrysler, past the rusty chain-link fences that found their way into Clint Eastwood’s commercial, and through the poorly lit tunnels that Eminem drove through?
Remember the end of the commercial, when you felt all warm and fuzzy inside?
“Because the best thing about humble beginnings, is that they stay humble.”
[Suh hugs his mom.]
[Fade to black]
We like our stories from the beginning. Before the million dollar contract and before the Chrysler 300 commercials, there was a guy in a one story house with an overworked mom.
Stories start on high-school fields and trainer’s tables and tiny ice rinks where the fog hangs over the ice in the mornings.
When we read about them or watch them on TV, we identify. We root for the guy. When we see it in real time, a AA baseball player showing up in a Tigers uniform three years later, a high school senior getting recruited and then drafted by the NFL, a minor league hockey player going from Western Canada to The Show, there’s a satisfaction, an accomplishment.
“I remember when he played for Catholic Central.”
I knew him before he was him. I knew him before you knew him.*
Jurco rolled to the front of the net, but instead of setting up shop in front and battling for position when his team had the power play, he glided off to the side.
Jurco went into the corner and couldn’t out muscle the defender. Coming back up the ice, he had the option to finish his check, and he didn’t.
Stories hinge on moments. Memories are comprised of them. Our lives are told in a series of them. When those humble beginnings turn into haughty accomplishments, we look back for that one moment when we knew. The more specific, the better. That five-goal game late in the season good, but it was really that first shift of his first game, when he spun off a defender and laid a cross-ice saucer pass directly on the tape.
I saw him way back when, and way back when all it took was one look to know he was going to make it.
Jurco was working on a defenseman out in the corner and barely got his stick caught up in his opponent’s legs. He was sent to the penalty box. London scored on the ensuing power play.
Jurco streaked down the left wing, made one little toe-drag move and wristed in a quick shot. The puck was handled easily by the goaltender.
I watched the third period of the St. John Sea Dogs’ loss to the London Knights in the Memorial Cup this weekend.** Tomas Jurco, the Red Wings’ second-round pick from last year, plays for St. John. Championship tournament or not, it was Canadian junior hockey in an non-insulated barn in place called Shawinigan.
For me, this was Jurco’s humble beginnings.
In 20 minutes, I never saw that moment.
(P.S. If anyone can explain why St. John is abbreviated SNB it would be greatly appreciated. I’m assuming it’s a French thing but it doesn’t make any sense. EDIT: It’s been answered in the comments.)
*( I basically just summed up the reason I love the James Mungro Memorial Award.)
**(The Memorial Cup is a tournament between the winners of Canada’s three junior leagues, the OHL, the QMJHL and the WHL and a host team. Basically it’s a fight for the championship between champions.)