The first time you strap on a pair of skates is a defining moment in any players career, you either love the game or you hate it. The desire to get in the game often comes from an outside source. For Dallas Stars’ forward Jamie Benn, it was his mother and the ever popular TimBits hockey program that lit the lamp early for the 24-year-old native of Victoria, B.C.
“My mom threw my brother in TimBits when he was little, I guess she got sick of me one day, so she threw me out there too.”
While young fans across the world may label Benn as their hockey hero, he too found himself idolizing a hockey great during the early years.
“Joe Sakic, I had all his posters on my wall, a couple signed pictures, so he was my idol growing up.”
Some of the best memories stem from countless hours spent at the rink. While those memories are still intact, it’s the friendships forged through the game that still stick with Benn to this day.
“You work your way up at every level and play with so many players, the best part for me was most of my best friends today are the guys that I played hockey with growing up. We still keep in touch and that’s probably the biggest memory that I have.”
You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. Lucky for Benn, his best friend turned out to be one in the same, older brother Jordie also plays within the Stars organization, an experience that was never expected, but one that won’t soon be forgotten.
“It’s crazy, we grew up wanting to make the NHL, you don’t really dream of playing on the same team as your brother, it’s been a great experience. It’s one that we’re going to remember for the rest of our lives.”
Like any young kid growing up in Canada, once you play hockey, the dream of the NHL always seems to be the goal. But while most kids nowadays strive to excel at one sport and one sport only, Benn found the benefits of practicing out of the rink and on the field.
“I think you don’t need to play one sport all year round when you’re a young kid, go out there and play as many sports as you can if you can. Baseball is something I enjoyed in the summer to get away from hockey and it’s something I played all the way until grade 12. It really helped out my hockey career and kept me interested and I still love both sports to this day.”
Despite a knack for baseball, hockey prevailed and the reality that the NHL was a possibility struck during time spent with the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).
“My first and only year of junior A hockey in Victoria, I heard rumors of NHL scouts being at games and showing interest in me. That summer I got drafted and that was the first step toward achieving my goal of making the NHL.”
Drafted by the organization he now calls home, Benn went 129th overall during the 2007 Entry Draft. But before finding success in the big show, he found his now famous stride in a smaller arena, making his mark within the Western Hockey League playing two seasons for the Kelowna Rockets, an organization he humbly credits for the developmental opportunity.
“Pretty high, they’re at the top of the list or close to it, they were a big part in my development. I have to give a big thanks to Bruce Hamilton, and the entire organization for developing me into this kind of hockey player.”
While the support system at the rink is key in on ice development, it’s the fan base a player finds at home that provides an equally beneficial key to success.
“My family, they have such a big part in where you want to go in life. My parents gave me a lot of support along the way. Our sister has been there for us whenever we needed her and then my brother, being there for me and having him to compete against to get better each and every day both on and off the ice.”
Despite a clear love of the game, Benn’s family, his father especially, made a point to ensure that the flame still burned bright, lending him a piece of advice that has stuck with him throughout the years.
“It came from my Dad. Just have fun with what you do, every once in awhile when we were going to hockey or coming home, he’d ask are you having fun? Our answer was always yes. But he’d say there’s no point in playing if you aren’t having fun, we definitely enjoyed playing hockey growing up.”
Making it to the NHL provides a memory in and of itself, but each player holds different moments of their success close to the heart. For Benn, a few came to mind quickly, especially the profound achievement announced earlier this week.
“World Junior Gold Medal, NHL first goal and I guess yesterday was a pretty special day for me being named Captain.”
Some would believe that adding Captain to your resume may lend added pressure to your game. For Benn, the title will be worn with honor and his competitive nature will remain the same.
“No added pressure, I’m not going to change anything that I do. I think the coaches here and the GM picked me because of the way I go about my business as a hockey player. For me being younger it’s obviously a big honor and being able to lead by example both on and off the ice.”
A dream that some may never achieve, the thought that it could become a possibility grew as the summer progressed.
“I kind of thought about it throughout the summer a bit, obviously trading Brenden Morrow last year, I knew there was going to be a new captain this year. It was something I definitely wanted.”
When you think of Texas, hockey is never at the forefront of ones thoughts. While some fans in the league don’t find Dallas to be a large hockey market, many others are quickly realizing that hockey in the lone star state is anything but lonely.
“It’s growing, just talking to the people down here, after they see their first game they love it and they want to come back. We’re trying to promote it as players down here and it’s growing. I think the fans really enjoy it, especially when they come to watch a game.”
Fans getting in the game have a lot to look forward to as the season quickly skates towards opening night. With the franchise as a whole making changes to better their shot at the ultimate prize, the Stars find themselves with some exciting changes on the roster this season.
“It was a pretty crazy summer for the Stars, new coach, new GM, made some big trades. We brought in a couple of veteran guys who know how to win in this league and have been around for awhile. Then getting Tyler Seguin was obviously huge for us, a guy that’s been to the finals and won one year, he brings a lot of experience for such a young guy too.”
A new letter adorning his jersey hasn’t changed the sentiments of Benn heading into a new season, like many of his colleagues around the league, getting back on the ice can’t come soon enough.
“It feels like a fresh start around here with the new players and the people that have come in. I’m excited to get the season going, to see what we can build and find as a team for chemistry. Obviously playing with Tyler Seguin this year will be exciting.”
Anyone can see what Benn brings to the ice, but it’s his shy, quiet off ice personality they may find surprising.
“I’m a pretty quiet guy, I don’t talk too much in the dressing room, my personality is pretty funny, at least I like to think. I like to crack jokes and joke around a bit.”
With an 82 game season about to face off, down time will become a thing of the past and quickly, but when it does present himself Benn is just like the rest of us.
“I’m a pretty chill guy, I don’t really do much when I don’t have to. Going to a movie, laying on the couch and watching TV, playing N64, old school.”
Something that fans may miss on their newly named captain this season, his infamous locks.
“I like my hair a lot, but I changed it up a bit, a little bit of a mohawk thing,” laughed Benn. “Party in the back business in the front.”
Business being a key component in that final statement, for Benn and his Stars a new season brings a fresh start with plenty of excitement. Fans have a lot to look forward to and a quiet, well rounded, offensive powerhouse wearing #14 to help give it to them.
Excited that Jamie Benn is the new Captain? Dallas Stars TV was in the locker room as GM Jim Nill shared the news with the team and it’s a pretty neat inside look at their reactions! Check out the video here.