The 2020 BC Winter Classic takes place in Fort St. James this weekend with the Cariboo Cougars’ game tomorrow (Jan. 18) and the Northern Capitals on Sunday (Jan. 20).
For one Cariboo Cougar, today (Jan. 17) was extra special in taking a seven-year long overdue walk down his old elementary school halls, sharing his life story, interests and hockey pursuits.
Jackson Hassman is an alumnus of David Hoy Elementary school, where he and four other teammates got to speak with kids and teachers about their journey from northern B.C. grassroots minor hockey to the big-city team.
“It’s great to see some familiar faces, to see teachers that were in my classes and stuff and it’s great talking with the kids too,” the 17-year-old said in an interview with PrinceGeorgeMatters.
“Playing all those games on the playground like grounders; I walked here every day, so I’d come hang out with all my friends down the street. It’s great to be back.”
Hassman lived in #FortStJames until Grade 5 before moving to Vanderhoof & then Prince George 🏒 He says it’s wonderful to see some of his former teachers still at David Hoy Elementary giving back to the community | #BCWinterClassic pic.twitter.com/Ouryqo5ZIf— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) January 17, 2020
Hassman is in his first full season with the Prince George-based hockey club after playing eight games last year as an affiliate with the BC Major Midget League franchise.
He says he enjoyed growing up in Fort St. James, but admits the District has fallen on hard times trying to keep up its local association.
“Minor hockey is great here, but it’s kind of drifting away right now. So that sucks,” said Hassman, noting he’s grateful to his family for getting him to where he skates today.
“For me, my parents were great growing up. They moved us to Vanderhoof and then on to Prince George and they’ve been huge, supportive people in my life and I thank them a lot, for sure.”
.@cariboocougars are at David Hoy Elementary in #FortStJames taking questions from students as part of the BC Winter Classic’s community outreach initiative 🍎 Kids are wearing hockey jerseys for the occasion | #BCHockey @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/c9VKdhIeL6— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) January 17, 2020
Suiting up in all 26 games in his 2019-20 campaign thus far, Hassman has proven to be a valuable player with 11 assists and 13 points.
He credits his skill and lifestyle to his Fort St. James background, dating back to when he first picked up a hockey stick at five years old.
“My dad worked at the rink, so I always got a few extra ice time and everybody was very influential,” he explained.
“Kids really like hockey here; they all want to make it somewhere with hockey, but as long as you stay in school and keep working hard, keep working hard in every practice and they’ll do good.”
Hassman also played in the inaugural BC Winter Classic in 2019, when he was able to interact and play in front of people he hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years.
He hopes those same people and more will check out this year’s installment of the Cariboo Cougars’ new annual outdoor l tradition tomorrow night, 5:30 p.m. at Ernie Sam Memorial Arena against the Vancouver North West Hawks.
The Major Midget Cats wrap up the weekend in Fort St. James on Sunday, 12:30 p.m. at the (indoor) Fort Forum Arena.