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Staying in the Fight

Jets alumnus Adam Pardy battled injuries, but it paid off with a memorable moment in his home province

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

Adam Pardy almost missed one of the best moments of his hockey career.

The defenceman - who didn't start playing the 2018-19 campaign with the East Coast Hockey League's Newfoundland Growlers until December due to lingering concussion symptoms - saw his head coach, and close friend, Ryane Clowe officially step away from the team's bench for medical reasons in January.

Throughout that season, Pardy was never pressured to play. He would take practices - even games - off if he didn't feel right, all with the blessing of the coaching staff.

Now he was seeing one of his close friends having to call it quits for medical reasons.

"When that happened, I thought maybe I should just walk away too," Pardy said. "Why am I pushing it?"

He stayed with it, paying close attention to his symptoms and working with John Snowden - the team's assistant coach who took over head coaching duties after Clowe left - to determine Pardy's availability for the line-up each night.

It all paid off.

Pardy and the Growlers won the ECHL's Kelly Cup on home ice in St. John's, Newfoundland - the first expansion team to win an ECHL title in its first year since 1990. It was also the first professional championship for a Newfoundland based team.

"We had Zach O'Brien, James Melindy, and Marcus Power all from the St. John's area," said Pardy, who was born in Bonavista, NL. 

"So with the four of us, it was a special thing for a lot of people."

Like so many young hockey players, Pardy grew up wanting to win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup. He chased it from the time he broke into the NHL in 2008 with the Calgary Flames until he played his last game with the Nashville Predators during the 2016-17 season.

He spent the 2017-18 campaign with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League, battling concussions and playing 11 games before joining the Growlers the following season.

But the ECHL he joined in 2018 was much different than the one he was part of in 2005 with the Las Vegas Wranglers.

"I can tell you it's not even close to where it is right now. It's a very good league with very good players in it," Pardy said. "The guys you're playing with, you see how hard they're working, and you see the pay cheques, it makes you appreciate how much they love the game and what it should mean to everybody. The game itself should be the prize and what drives you every day.

"At this level, you really see what the game means to people. That was something that humbled me."

That team was special, Pardy said. Players embraced Newfoundland and the sense of community that came with playing in St. John's. One of the big reasons Pardy wanted to play in his home province was so his then 10-year-old nephew, Cameron, could watch him play at home.

"He was nearly at every game. He'd come for sleepovers after games sometimes. That part was a lot of fun for me," he said. "Once we started getting late into the season, we realized we have a good team here. We have an opportunity. Each round of the playoffs, the city and the province really started to rally behind us. It was something special."

He's felt that kind of rally around a hometown team in another place too - Winnipeg.

Pardy played parts of three seasons with the Jets between 2013 and 2016. 

"I always said Winnipeg reminded me a lot of Newfoundland, a lot of home. It has a lot of the same qualities and characteristics - strong willed people, work hard, and very proud to be Winnipeggers. I can relate a lot to that," said Pardy, who played 129 regular games in a Jets jersey.

It was pretty easy for Pardy to name the most memorable stretch during those games.

"I think that year we made the playoffs, that was a bit of a special run. That year, especially, we had a ton of injuries," he said. "Everybody was just working their tails off. The energy that was felt on the ice, it didn't feel like work. It didn't feel hard. You could go out and go as hard as you could go - and not feel a thing.

"It was a fun time to play hockey and a fun time to come to the rink."

Winnipeg's 43-26-13 record in 2014-15 gave them 99 points in the standings, enough for the first playoff berth since relocating from Atlanta in 2011.

It was the first time Pardy had tasted playoff hockey since 2008 with the Flames. He played in two of the four games against the Anaheim Ducks, scoring his first career playoff goal in Game 2 at the Honda Center.

"When I got the call for Game 2, it was late, and there was a chance I'd be playing forward. I was ready to go either way. I was feeling good, energetic, my mind was right. I just couldn't wait to get on the ice," Pardy said, still able to recall not only his emotions, but the play leading up to his goal as well, which came with 4:17 to go in the second period.

"It's funny, sometimes the game just looks clearer or slows down for you. That was a moment for me," he said of the moment just before he toe-dragged Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri as he pinched down from the blue line.

"I had pulled that move off a couple times. It presented itself," he said. "I picked up the rebound and everybody was sliding to the net, I think it was (Lee) Stempniak in the net, so it just popped back on my stick and I had an empty net.

"It was pretty exciting for me. I think it was the first one in five or six years. So that was exciting. It was a special moment I won't forget."

Video: Pardy's Playoff Goal vs. ANA

These days, the 36-year-old Pardy is living his life as a retired hockey player. He got married in August to his wife, Lesley, then the couple spent two weeks in Hawaii shortly after the ceremony.

He started the 2019-20 season on a volunteer basis with the Growlers helping players on the ice during practice, something he felt really helped with his transition out of the game.

"It was really fun. After Christmas I kind of scaled back a little bit to take some time to myself to figure things out," Pardy said.

"But to be able to still be around the game, on the ice with the guys, feel that energy in the room - if you talk to any ex-players, the first thing they're going to tell you is what they miss the most is the other guys."

As for those concussion symptoms that nearly prevented him from winning a championship in his home province, he said he knows what triggers them, and tries to avoid those activities now.

"I'm feeling really good," he said, adding that activities like high-intensity training can bring on a "slight hangover" feeling, as he describes it.

"There are certain things I can do, like eye exercises that work really well for me," Pardy said. "Concussions are different for everybody, but I have these little tricks and exercises I can do to make myself feel better."

He still thinks back to his time in Winnipeg and the fans that made it such a special spot to play - a home away from home.

"I'd like to thank the Jets for bringing me in and giving me an opportunity to play there, in a city that really cares," he said. "I can't thank the organization enough for that and the city as well for accepting me, letting me be part of it for three years. It's something I'll never forget."

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