As a young athlete, Jamie Wise grew up with some of the most elite coaching available in Canada.
At home, those coaches are called Mom and Dad.
Many in hockey circles are familiar with Jamie’s father, Graham Wise, the highly respected head coach of the Ryerson University Rams hockey team. The long-time hockey coach also spent 19 seasons as head coach of York University, where he guided them to 13 divisional titles, five conference championships, two Ontario championships and back-to-back national titles.
But what many might not know is that Jamie’s mother, Sue Wise, is herself a former elite-level coach, having trained a number of Canada’s top track and field athletes. She’s currently a teacher at York University’s kinesiology department and is also the high-performance coordinator for Athletics Ontario, charged with identifying and helping fund track and field athletes.
“I think I got the competitive edge early,” said Wise, who’s enjoying the best season of his Ontario Hockey League career with the Mississauga Majors. “With my mom being a track coach she always wanted me to work out and do the extra to get my body prepared, and my dad helped me along the way with my hockey games telling me what I had to improve on and what I’m doing well. So they’ve always been very supportive.”
Wise practically grew up at the hockey rink, sometimes practising with his father’s teams and was often perched behind the bench, where he got one of the best seats in the house.
“I was there when [York] won the Queen’s Cup, which is the Ontario championship,” said the 20-year-old of the 2003-04 title. “I was their water boy. It was pretty cool to me – at that time it was like winning the Stanley Cup.
“I thought it was the biggest thing in the world because it meant a lot to my dad. He worked really hard for it and being there at a young age was a good experience for me.”
Hard work seems to run in the family. Wise isn’t the most skilled forward in the Majors’ arsenal, but what he brings to the team is tenacity, fearlessness and an energy that has made him a difficult forward for the opposition to handle.
“He’s an unsung hero,” said Mississauga coach and general manager James Boyd. “The game that he plays cannot be pleasant. He plays hard and he does all the things nobody else wants to do and he’s been such a reason for our success. He was voted [in the OHL’s coaches poll] as the best penalty killer, he blocks shots – he’s reckless blocking shots. Most of his goals he scores are from five or 10 feet from around the net and a lot of time he absorbs punishment doing it.
“That’s the only way he knows how to play.”
On Tuesday night, Wise was back in the Majors’ starting lineup continuing to make life difficult for their first-round playoff opponent, the Barrie Colts. He helped set up two goals in Mississauga’s 3-2 victory over the Colts to tie their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final 2-2.
“We shut them down pretty well on the penalty kill and when we got our chances on the power play we capitalized,” said Wise after the Majors went 2-for-4 with the man advantage. The Stouffville, Ont., native played in almost every situation and logged a regular shift on the Majors’ top line alongside Mika Partanen and Riley Brace.
It’s a big step up from his position on the team last season, when he was more of a role player on a stacked squad that went to the OHL final and hosted the Memorial Cup. He appreciates the chance Boyd has given him this year in terms of both ice time and leadership with the rebuilding Majors squad.
“I made it into the league as a gritty player, the fourth-liner who got a couple minutes a game,” said Wise, who came into the league as a walk-on with the Peterborough Petes in 2009-10. “Once I got my opportunity I didn’t let it go to waste. I’ve tried my hardest to do well this year.”
In the regular season, the six-foot, 200-pound forward finished second in team scoring with 31 goals and 17 assists for 48 points in 59 games, a far cry from his career-high 12 points the season prior.
“He’s got a real knowledge of hockey,” Boyd said. “He’s got a good mind for the game – knowing where to go on the ice or where to place pucks so they can be retrieved. I think he’s got a better skill set than he gets credit for, but I think what’s most underrated is his thought process. He really thinks the game well so he’s able to play an efficient game, which makes him a pretty effective checker along with his 30 goals this year.”
Wise said having his dad around to help with hockey as a kid was a definite benefit in terms of his positional play.
“I think people are born with hockey sense; it doesn’t just come to you,” Wise said. “When you start playing the game, you just start figuring things out and know what to do when you’re out on the ice. My dad helped me out a lot there.”
Boyd believes Wise’s play this year might be enough to help get him on the pro hockey radar, considering the way he’s improved his overall game with the increased ice time.
“I think the complexion of his hockey future might have changed a little bit over the last year,” Boyd said. “He’s got that CIS [university hockey] option – his father is a long-time CIS and two-time national championship-winning coach – but he might have some opportunities to play some professional hockey, which is exciting.”
Boyd said he’s only spoken to Graham Wise twice this season – and only to discuss potential Ryerson recruits – never Jamie’s performance with the Majors.
“He’s not that type of guy,” Wise said. “He’ll either say, ‘Good game’ or ‘What were you doing out there?’ He’s a coach, so he understands that [Boyd] is just doing his job. He has his own team to worry about so he stays out of that stuff. He’s a great supporter of me, though.”
Sue Wise says she also believes in positive reinforcement, but tries to keep the same hands off approach when it comes to coaching her kids.
“Honestly, I just try to be a mom that’s got a little intelligence in sports,” said Sue, who represented Canada at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in the pentathlon. “If I try to be a coach, it doesn’t work. I’ve already tried. He did my workouts in the summer and we’d start getting mad at each other and then he’d stomp off the track and then we’d start over again. But we have a pretty good relationship.”
Keeping the parent-coach division is fine by Wise as well, since he says he already gets an earful at home.
“Me and my [older] brother [Brendan], we never let her work us out because we always end up in fights,” said Wise. “Some of (the) drills she does, I just get a little ticked off, mostly because she’s my mom, I guess. She already tells me to clean my room and make my bed. I don’t need her harping at me when we’re working out.”
Regardless of their workout regime disagreements, Sue said she’s noticed a difference in his attitude this year in terms of what he might be able to accomplish in hockey after his OHL career comes to an end.
“I think he’s starting to believe in himself, and that ultimately is what is important,” she said. “He has to believe he can do it. Positive reinforcement is so important for these kids, they feed on it and that’s important to see both as a coach and as a mother.”
As far as Jamie Wise is concerned, all he says he needed was a chance.
“I think a lot of people underestimate me. I could always score goals, even before I got to the OHL.
“I always knew I could make it.”