By Ryan Stelter, U SPORTS Men’s Hockey Correspondent
Most university students spend the month of December cramming for exams, then head off for a relaxing winter break.
Not Saskatchewan Huskies netminder Jordon Cooke. The 23-year-old native of Leduc, Alta., began December by being named to the U SPORTS all-star team that played two games against the Canadian World Junior prospects in Boisbriand, Que., the second straight year Cooke had been named to the squad.
It was there that Cooke was summoned by Hockey Canada brass and told he’d been named to Canada’s roster for the 2016 Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland.
“Being name to the U SPORTS all-star team was pretty incredible. There are a lot of great goalies throughout the leagues here so just to be named is a pretty special accomplishment,” said Cooke, last season’s U SPORTS goaltender of the year. “(The Spengler) was the highlight of my December, it’s one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever gotten.”
Cooke did not think that a university athlete could be named to a Spengler Cup roster, as the tournament is usually reserved for professionals, mostly those that play in European leagues.
“It’s something I’ve never heard of over the years of watching the Spengler Cup,” he said. “Just hearing that I’ve made the team was pretty incredible.”
A Canada West player had not been named to Canada’s Spengler Cup roster in more than 30 years, when four members of the Alberta Golden Bears were named to the 1984 roster. The Spengler Cup is the oldest invitational hockey tournament in the world, dating back to 1923. Cooke was honoured and thrilled to be named to the team, and would love to get the opportunity to play for Canada again in the future.
“It’s a massive accomplishment,” he said. “Personally, I hope it’s just one of many accomplishments down the road. Now that I’ve had that taste of it, I want more – I want to be there again.”
Despite not suiting up for any of the games for Canada, Cooke enjoyed his time in Switzerland – his first trip being in Europe. The business major tried to take in as much as he could with roommate Zach Fucale, a second round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2013.
“Switzerland is such a different place, (Davos) is a beautiful city. Before I even got there I heard nothing but good things about the city,” he said. “They have four different languages throughout the whole country, so the language barrier was pretty big but Zach and I went out most days and tried to take in as much of the culture as we could.”
Standing at 5-foot-10, Cooke hasn’t been the biggest guy on the ice, and in a game today where taller goaltenders are preferred, he has been able to shine despite his smaller stature.
“My whole life I’ve been told I’m not the biggest guy,” he said. “Someone can tell me I’m too short but if I stop a puck better than a guy who is 6-foot-3, then that’s ok with me. The biggest thing with me is my work ethic, that’s something I’ve been engrained with since childhood. It comes from watching my parents do absolutely everything they could to help my brother and I out, with whatever we wanted to do.”
Cooke wants to stay at the U of S and complete his degree in economics, but is confident in his ability to play professional hockey somewhere afterwards.
“I think I can play anywhere, I want an opportunity, I know I can do it, whether it’s the AHL, NHL, or overseas,” he said. “I’m just waiting for that opportunity.”
If Cooke continues to play like he is, he should not have to wait too long for professional teams to come calling.
For now though, Cooke is still patrolling the crease for the Huskies, and doing so with a lot of success. The third-year puck stopper currently holds a fantastic 1.83 goals-against average, which is good enough for fifth in the nation and the best ranking in Canada West among starting netminders. He also has a conference-best four shutouts so far this season. The Huskies currently sit first in the Canada West standings, and will hopefully be gunning for a national championship this season.
“The Huskies haven’t won a championship in a while now, and we’ve had the teams to win but we haven’t been able to get to the top,” Cooke said. “I think this year we have that opportunity. I’d love to win one this year - we have an amazing group of guys here that all play for one and other.”