One of the toughest competitors on the ice, defenseman Barret Jackman has followed his Calder Trophy-winning season in 2002-03 with more than 640 games played for the St. Louis Blues and he's the longest-tenured professional athlete in St. Louis. Jackman recently discussed his active involvement with animal rescue in St. Louis, the reason behind wearing No. 5, and the benefits of Elf on a Shelf in his household.
Kathryn Tappen: Born in Trail, British Columbia, you grew up just one town over in Fruitvale. Describe what it was like there.
Barret Jackman: Home of Adam Deadmarsh! It's a real small town. You don't do much besides play hockey and baseball. It was a fun upbringing in a small town where you can roam free and do what you want, and not have to worry about all the things you have to worry about now. I have two sisters, Michelle who is two years younger, and an older sister Danielle who is two years older.
KT: How did you learn to skate?
BJ: I learned on an outdoor rink or the neighbor's flooded backyard. I was around two years old when I put on skates for the first time. Learning how to keep up with the older kids in the neighborhood and chasing them down helped me get used to skating.
KT: Taken as St. Louis' first pick at the 1999 NHL Draft, what was that moment like for you?
BJ: It was pretty unreal. I was sitting in the stands in Boston at the draft with my mom, sisters, and my billet family from Regina (Regina Pats, Western Hockey League). You're sitting on pins and needles to hear where your future is headed. When St. Louis went up there and picked me, all I thought of was going to camp with guys like Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis, two of the best defensemen in the whole world. It was pretty amazing. I think I almost fell down the stairs trying to get to the floor and up to the podium.
KT: Needless to say the entire Jackman group was elated to hear your name called?
BJ: Oh yeah, they were all floored. And actually, my roommate in Regina, Brett Lysak, was drafted by Carolina in the second round, so he was there as well.
KT: You get drafted, make it to the NHL, and in your rookie season you beat out Henrik Zetterberg and Rick Nash in 2003 for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. Not bad competition you beat out there.
BJ: (laughs) Yeah, real tough. Thank god they had a slow start to the year and caught fire later on. It's funny all the guys tease me, “You actually won the Calder Trophy?” That's how long ago it was. When they ask who I beat out they're floored. Two great players like that were second and third behind an old slow defenseman like me. You look at a lot of the guys who come and go in this League with injuries and what not. The three of us are still in the League, and two years ago all of us on the teams that drafted us. It's rare in the salary-cap day and age, but definitely something all three of us take a lot of pride in.
KT: What did you do with your signing bonus?
BJ: I bought a place on Christina Lake, in BC. It's real close to where my family lived and I had a lot of friends who had family places up there. I always wanted to have a place on a lake and that was what I was able to do. My mom and sisters spend more time there than I do. They get a lot of use out of it and really enjoy it, so that makes me happy.
KT: You wear No. 5. Bob Plager wore No. 5, and has been a part of the Blues organization since 1967. What does it mean to you to wear Plager's number?
BJ: It's a huge honor. He always puts a smile on my face. First day of training camp walking in and everybody else had the training camp numbers from the '70s and '80s, and my jersey was hanging there with No. 5 and my name on the back. It was awesome. Getting to know how much Bobby was loved by his teammates and the fans and coaches. Everybody around him loved him. For him to hand select me to wear that number was an incredible feeling the first day of camp.
KT: You're the longest-tenured athlete in pro sports in St. Louis. That has to make you feel proud.
BJ: A couple years ago when [Albert] Pujols left, I kind of took over that title. St. Louis is my home now. The fans have embraced me and I enjoy playing for the Blues.
KT: So, I imagine you can pull rank in that city?
BJ: (laughs) Yeah, everybody else is a rookie compared to me. The Cardinals are still No. 1 in St. Louis, though. Everyone is baseball crazy. Hopefully we can change that.
KT: You mentioned you played baseball as a kid, what position?
BJ: Catcher. That was the only position you got caught in action. In the slow times, you still had something to do.
KT: You and your wife Jenny are very involved in charity work with Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Tell me about that organization and why it's important to you.
BJ: Stray Rescue takes feral and stray dogs off the street, rehabilitates them, and tries to put them into loving homes. I will go out and rescue every once in a while when my schedule allows. Lending my name and showing up at different charity events helps. I have my own set up for awareness called “Barret's Buddies” where you can adopt on the Blues website through Stray Rescue. My wife is on the Board of Directors for Stray Rescue and she goes out every week to rescue with the founder, Randy Grim.
KT: How many of your teammates have you given dogs to?
BJ: (laughs) Well, between myself, [Alexander] Steen and [David] Backes, we're all involved in Stray Rescue and David's got his own, Athletes for Animals, now too. All three of us are pushing dogs on different guys all the time, and trying to get them to do the right thing.
KT: How many dogs do you personally have?
BJ: I have two. Bailey was rescued from Hurricane Katrina, and Tanner was abused as a puppy. They've been part of our family for about nine years now.
KT: NHL analyst Kelly Chase takes credit for introducing you to your wife, by the way.
BJ: (laughs) She over-served me at a bar in the '04 NHL lockout. She was a waitress. Chaser introduced us. He actually told Jenny that he wanted her to meet a friend of his. She was very reluctant to meet anyone who was associated with Chaser (laughs). But now we're married and have two kids, a four-year-old Cayden and a two-year-old Makena.
KT: I hear Cayden is quite the personality in the Blues locker room!
BJ: He thinks he runs the Scottrade Center. He's got his own routine where he has to watch warm-ups every game. He stands in the Zamboni door and watches, guys skate over and hit the glass for him. I go by and hit the glass or flip a puck to him. He watches the game with the family. After a win, I'll wave to him in the corner where his seats are. I missed it once, I don't know what I was thinking, but he was pretty upset. I'll never make that mistake again. Then after the game he gets to come in the locker room. Our ownership group in St. Louis is great in allowing family around as much as they do. When Cayden is older he'll look back and appreciate it as much as I do now.
KT: With Christmas just around the corner and two little ones, is the famous Elf on a Shelf in the Jackman household?
BJ: Yep! His name is Chippy. This morning when I left for our road trip he was on the TV in the kitchen staring at the kids. It's a great tool when the kids are acting up. My son always gets scared when I say I'm going to tell Chippy that he's not being good. It's a great invention. We didn't get it until last year and I can't believe it took me this long to get one.
KT: Will Chippy ever be found in the infamous “Dog House” at your home?
BJ: (laughs) No. If Chippy's in there, he has a blindfold on. Our house is about 125 years old and has a carriage-house garage. There's a loft above it, and it's the perfect hangout place. The guys will come over and shoot pool, play cards, have fantasy drafts there. We have holiday parties there. It's a great spot.