Jason Gregoire is familiar name around Winnipeg for most hockey fans. The Winnipeg native played for the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux, a team less than two hours South of Winnipeg.
Originally drafted by the NY Islanders in the third round (76th overall) in 2007, the 23-year old winger says his dream has always been to play for the Winnipeg Jets. Well, here is another step closer and another shot at fulfilling that dream.
Last July, the Jets signed Gregoire as a free-agent to a two-year, entry level contract. He attended training camp in the fall but was sent to St. John's IceCaps for further development. He played 44 games last season with the IceCaps posting six goals and eight assists with a plus-4. He battled injuries off and on throughout the season making it very difficult to make a name for himself.
"It's tough, I think it's the rise and fall of any pro career," said Gregoire."Luckily I went through it in my first year so hopefully it's smooth sailing from here.
"It's one thing I've realized, that there are a lot of good hockey players out there and it's a dog fight just to stay in the AHL and even more so to make it to the big club. It's invaluable, something that I'm going to hold with me through my career and definitely going into main camp- to put in that extra effort like work out more in the off-season to prevent those injuries.
"I love playing the game and it's still my dream to play for the Jets," he continued. "If you take the bad route of packing your things up then you can't accomplish that dream. It's still my dream and still my goal and I'm working towards it everyday."
Making the jump into professional hockey last season was definitely a step in the right direction for Gregoire. But after playing his last three seasons in college, moving over to the AHL can be easier said then done.
"It's a different game," he said. "It's high paced, it's really physical and it's a long season. Anyone would be the first to tell you that. You're playing Tuesdays and Wednesdays and you might play three-in-three [nights], you're not used to that in college. It's the grind. It's staying in shape, staying healthy, eating and sleeping right. Keeping your body prepared and being a pro. It's constantly being ready."
Gregoire is here at development camp hoping to show everyone that he has what it takes to be a Winnipeg Jet and that he can overcome adversity if it stares him right in the face. After just two days of camp, he says he already has a confident edge over some of the other prospects, which will only help him when training camp rolls around.
"It's confidence more than anything, I've been through it," he said. "For a first year guy coming in here trying to meet everybody, it might be a little tentative, whereas I might be a little more confident because I'm from here and I know all these guys. I know my capabilities and I know also know what I have to show the big guys what I have to do to make the club."