From heartbreak to pure elation, Jordan Spence has experienced every emotion imaginable on his unique journey in the game.
From Japan to Australia, to Summerside and Moncton, Spence’s amazing story of perseverance and determination could be written as a Hollywood script.
From his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League debut, to claiming Rookie of the Year honors, to establishing himself as one of the top defencemen in the league to donning the Maple Leaf and representing his country at the World U18 Championship, Jordan Spence’s season is the stuff dreams are made of.
The final scene of the script remains unwritten, it’s only weeks away. That’s the distance between Jordan Spence’s dream and reality.
It was exactly a year ago this week that Jordan Spence and his family was anxiously waiting for his phone to ring.
Still unsure of what might happen and the potential direction the skilled defencemen would take, Spence and his family were advised not to attend the QMJHL Entry Draft in Shawinigan.
It was out of their control, they would have to play the waiting game yet again.
Spence had come to terms with the devastation of being passed over in his first year of eligibility in the ‘Q’ and had channeled that disappointment into an exceptional breakout and award winning season at the Junior A ranks with the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Hockey League.
Three-hours into his second ‘Q’ draft experience Spence would finally get the call.
From rejection to retribution, Jordan Spence would finally get an opportunity to prove he could be an impact player in the QMJHL.
Everyone player handles rejection differently. Some players play the blame game, while others pack it in all together.
Those that channel the rejection and use it as motivation are often very special players and people.
Jordan Spence chose to use rejection as the ultimate motivational tool. The kid that honed his skill on three different continents was ready showcase his ability in the Canadian Hockey League.
Spence was quick to debunk any notion or perception of being strictly one-dimensional when he finally arrived in the ‘Q’.
The rookie defender logged an incredible amount of ice time playing in every situation for the Cats. Spence quickly became the team’s number one defencemen and the go to guy on the backend.
His experience playing with stronger and older players as a sixteen at the Junior A level proved to be invaluable.
Things happen for a reason, but just how special was it for him and his family to have so much early success? “It means a lot to me since I didn’t get drafted my first year,” confessed Spence.
“Having a good season this year really helped me to be confident again in my abilities.”
The multifaceted defender was seemingly prepared for every challenge and scenario that was thrown his way.
Spence’s ability to handle forecheck pressure, read and react, make quality decisions and first passes while jumping into the play quickly propelled him into the upper echelon of defencemen in the QMJHL.
By early October, the entire league was raving about Jordan Spence.
With all the success and attention that came his way during a spectacular rookie season and ultimately in the biggest year of his life, Spence remained grounded and as humble as ever.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to have a big impact during my rookie year,” Spence said.
“I just wanted to stick to what I did before and always come to play every game.”
In 68 regular season games, the soft spoken smooth skating puck mover scored 6 goals and added 43 assists.
A star was in the making.
Everyone player handles success differently. Some players let it go their head, while others remain grounded and true themselves.
Young defencemen are supposed to struggle. That’s the unwritten rule, everyone comes to expect it.
Rookie blueliners are supposed to have certain amount of time and a number of games played at the next level to fully develop and adjust.
The transition to the QMJHL was seamless for Jordan Spence.
By the time Spence stepped on ice, he was more than ready to have an impact. The young defencemen’s composure and poise with the puck in all three zones drastically changed the complexion of the Wildcats and made them a force to be reckoned with off the rush.
So with all the attention, subsequent success; what did Jordan Spence learn about himself and does the young rearguard have any regrets about his first season in the QMJHL?
“The biggest thing I learned this year is that I realized I could keep up with the other players in the ‘Q’ and be an offensive defensemen like I was before,” confessed Spence.
“I have no regrets. I don’t think I would have changed anything this season,” Spence said confidently.
“I think I had a good season and we had a good season as a team as well.”
The Moncton Wildcats much like Spence got off to an outstanding start, but by mid November the team had hit a wall.
Spence continued to put up solid numbers, but the Cats continued to struggle to find their identity and consistency, which ultimately cost Darren Rumble his job.
In January, the Wildcats hired former NHL bench boss John Torchetti to carry them into the playoffs.
A new Head Coach and new system could be potentially difficult to adjust and comprehend. That certainly wasn’t the case for Spence.
“To be honest, it wasn’t difficult at all,” Spence said of the coaching change.
“They were both great coaches so we adjusted quickly.”
Jordan Spence had made a tremendous first impression on the entire league and NHL Scouts over the first few months of the season.
That trend certainly continued when John Torchetti landed in the Hub City.
“Jordan is very mature quiet kid that takes direction well and applies it on the ice,” Torchetti said.
“He wants to get better as a player every day.”
“Jordan is a good teammate, he’s not a vocal person, but his teammates really like him.”
“He’s a leader on the ice and leads by example during games,” added the Wildcats Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations.
Torchetti was also impressed with other aspects of Spence’s game and believes they will definitely translate well into the pro game if he continues to develop and progress.
“Jordan trains very hard on his conditioning, but he needs to put on the correct amount of weight and strength during the off season.”
“Jordan has incredible hockey sense, he’s an offensive player and reads the play well. He learned to play a better ‘North-South’ game and moved the puck quicker to give and go situations,” Torchetti said.
The former NHL bench boss compares the young defender to former NHL standouts Brian Rafalski and Brian Boyle.
The pressure is undeniable. It cripples some players, while it drives others to their maximum potential.
NHL Draft years can make or break a player’s dream.
Jordan Spence truly embraced all the attention and pressure this season.“It was very exciting meeting NHL scouts,” Spence said.
“Obviously, I was a little nervous at first, but it’s always a honour to get to meet the scouts and team representatives.”
The quiet down to earth kid with the incredibly unique journey in the game simply tried to keep everything in perspective.
“I think I did well handling the stress of my draft year,” admitted Spence.
“I wasn’t really paying attention to the rankings so I would focus more on the regular season and playoffs.”
“Jordan is a smart player that has good offensive skill and instincts,” said one NHL Scout.
“He had an impressive rookie season, but needs to become more explosive as an undersized defencemen if he is to make it to the NHL.”
Spence is the first person to realize that there’s still work to be done. “It would be an honour getting drafted, but it hasn’t happened yet so you never know, but if I hear my name called, I would obviously thank my family, friends and coaches for pushing me to where I am today,” Spence said.
After playing every regular season game for the Cats, Spence injured his ankle in the first round of the President Cup Playoffs. Fortunately, Spence returned to action during the second round, but the Cats were swept by the Halifax Mooseheads.
Nevertheless, the dream season continued. The QMJHL Rookie of the Year got the call from Hockey Canada to represent his country for the first time at the World Under 18 Hockey Championship in Sweden.
Hockey dreams do come true.
Through all the adversity and disappointment that confronted Jordan Spence early on in his career, the talented humble blueliner never lost focus on what mattered most, playing the game he loves, staying true himself and using all the negative energy and disappointment of the past to fuel his relentless pursuit of his dreams.
Every NHL team will know his story.
Every NHL team will know his character and personality.
Every NHL team will know what type of player he is and is capable of becoming.
Jordan Spence’s dream is in reach, the dream season continues.