September 12, 2011
Jason Shaw had a memorable 19th-birthday weekend — playing for both teams in a home-and-home series.
How does that happen? Last Saturday, one day after skating for the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs in a preseason game against the Belleville Bulls that was played on his birthday, the defenceman who dabbles as a winger was informed he had been released. Hours later, after his agent burned up the BlackBerry, Shaw was playing for his hometown Bulls that night against those same Frontenacs. Both times, he was on the winning side.
"It was really weird — just skating around in warmup, it was like, 'wow, I was just on that team yesterday,' " says Shaw. "Kingston told me I was released at around 9:30, 10 in the morning. Then my agent was just working to fix things up. He called their assistant coach, [Jason] Supryka and the final decision was probably around 2:30, 3 o'clock. It felt pretty good. I always wanted to play for the Bulls. I thought I fit in pretty well [while helping the Bulls to a 6-1 win]. It depends on what the coaches think, of course."
Shaw had only been a Frontenac briefly and certainly he's not the only player to face a team he had just left. Last season, goalie Troy Passingham actually travelled with the Windsor Spitfires to a game in Sarnia after he had been traded to the Sting — and that night he stayed at the same house as Brent Sullivan, the defenceman headed the other way in the deal. Shaw, whose older brother Andrew was a sparkplug centre on the Owen Sound Attack's championship team last season and is now entering his first season of pro in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, is no stranger to the itinerant life of junior hockey. He's had previous, albeit stints with the Niagara IceDogs and QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, so as a 19-year-old, this is his make-or-break season to get a foothold in major junior. With the Bulls, who have a fairly young roster, having suffered some injuries on the blueline in training camp, Shaw's best shot is catching on as a stay-at-home defenceman.
"They want me to be aggressive and be a tough guy so the other team doesn't think they can do whatever they want," says Shaw, who believes he made great strides last season after playing for the Junior B Stoney Creek Warriors with coach Ric Nattress, the former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman. "I just want to help the younger guys out, make sure they know they have an older guy with experience who's there for them."
Meantime, Shaw has two exhibition games left to show he belongs in Belleville. Marking his 19th birthday can be shelved.
"I didn't get to do anything since I was playing and had a curfew," he says. "I hope to get some time to celebrate it, but I'd rather be out playing hockey."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: CHL Images).