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InFlight: Jay Harrison- My Road

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

Jay Harrison played his minor hockey in Whitby, Ontario. In 1996-97, he played bantam for the Whitby Wildcats before moving on to play as a 16-year-old for the Oshawa Legionnaires of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

On being selected #1 in the 1998 OHL Priority Selection, and making the jump to the OHL to play with Brampton from 1998-2002.

It was an honour to be selected first in that draft, to be the first pick in that franchise’s history. It was also a unique moment, the start of a very long and pretty prosperous career starting with junior and working my way up. It was a fun day, and a pretty stressful day for a 15-year old kid, as much stress as a 15-year-old athlete could possibly be under. Most of that is imposed from around you. Looking back at it, it was fun and I’m very thankful.

On playing for Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championship, where he won bronze in 2001, and silver in 2002.

Well I remember the bronze being a bit better than the silver simply because you go out on a winning note. Both of those tournaments are great memories as far as getting to see a bit of the world, playing on a national stage for the first time, and an international stage in terms of competition. But a national stage in front of Canada. The camaraderie that you build with those guys, still lasts to this day. I see guys all over the place, I haven’t played with them any place but, that tournament. Known them for a month but we still take the time to stop and see how each other are. That’s a reflection of what that tournament means not only to the country but to the players as well.

On his first NHL game – January 27, 2006 for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens

I remember nearly everything. I was advised to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells. Everything you could possibly remember. I did that. I remember warm up, at ACC Saturday night, hockey night in Canada, Montreal Canadiens. I just remember how vivid the colours on the uniforms were in the light. Also, the guys looked just like I did. All that stuff. Until you get there, there’s that feeling of wonder and awe of what it would really be like. I remember my first shift. I remember seeing my family afterwards. I remember it from start to finish, it’s a very cherished memory.

On making the move to Carolina, and playing for the Hurricanes between 2009-2014.

There’s a lot. That was my first real breakthrough opportunity to play in the NHL and prove to myself and to others that I’m a regular everyday NHL defenceman. I have lots of individual memories, first goal, stuff like that. I also have a lot of good memories from playing with a lot of great players, forged a lot of friendships that still exist and will continue, even thought I don’t play there anymore. And a relationship with the community as well. My family integrated into North Carolina, people are very accepting of us, and we still made a lot of friends that we look to keep for a very long time there.

On scoring his first goal on October 9, 2009 in a 7-2 Hurricanes win over Florida

I remember it wasn’t exactly an important one, but it was a nicer one for me. I was able to put a wrist shot top corner on the rush, it was a startling moment, like ‘whoa! It went in!’ I have a couple great pictures of it. You can see the true emotion the game generates. And that’s why the game is so pure and means so much to us and everybody that watches it. Despite the whiskers and the facial hair, you can tell that I look like a 10-year-old boy with a grin on my face.

On his first game in Winnipeg, a 2-1 win over Boston on December 19, where Harrison recorded an assist.

That was wonderful. Definitely a memorable experience I won’t forget. It kind of helped loosen me up a bit and settle into my game. Grant (Clitsome) was a great partner that night and he helped me out a lot, and it made for an easier game for me.

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