By Scott Billeck
Stories of hockey success do not usually start in the Caribbean country of Jamaica. In fact, only one player from Jamaica, Graeme Townshend, has ever played in the NHL. Jermaine Loewen of Arborg, by way of Jamaica, hopes to change the total to two one day.
Loewen’s life started out in Jamaica. Stan and Tara, his parents, were in Jamaica doing short-term volunteer work at a children’s home.
“That is where we met him (Jermaine),” says Stan. “We didn’t go down there with the intent to adopt, but we met this little boy there, 3 years old at the time, and we said we got to give him a family. And so we started the process of adopting.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Jermaine, who was invited to the Under-16 Top-40 camp for Hockey Manitoba’s Program of Excellence and played for Team Gold this past weekend, first strapped on a pair of skates a year after he came to Canada. He started playing organized hockey at 10 years of age.
“This upcoming fall will be five years since he first started playing hockey,” says Stan. “When he started playing organized hockey he picked up on it fairly quickly. He was obviously rough around the edges, including all the rules. He didn’t understand the lines on the ice and icings and offsides, but he was a very athletic kid.”
Loewen, taken in the 3rd round of the WHL Bantam Draft this month, is a highly touted prospect by many in the WHL. The Kamloops Blazers took him 48th overall on May 2nd, just their second pick of the draft.
“We really like his size, for a big guy he is a very good skater,” says Matt Recchi, Director of Player Personnel with the Blazers. “His work ethic is top of the charts. He is a complete player with how hard he works offensively and defensively. “
At just 15 years of age, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound left-winger possesses vision and a knack for scoring goals, as well as the grittiness to be effective in the Western Hockey League. This past year, Loewen recorded 55 points in 31 games, including 31 goals for the Interlake Lightning AAA Bantam team.
“He has very good skill set,” said Recchi. “He knows how to score goals, he knows how to make plays, he is the captain of the Interlake Lightning and he leads by example every night. We envision him as a player who could push to make our roster at the age of 16. Like I said he is a big, strong guy who works really hard.
“In how far he has come, the fact he has played hockey for only four or five years, our projection on him is he is going to continue to improve and be a very good player for us in a few years.”
Jermaine’s parents, Stan and Tara, could not be more thrilled for their son.
“We are obviously very happy for him,” said Stan. “It is Jermaine’s goal and dream to play at an elite level. He is a very hard-working kid, very self-motivated. He works out very hard at home in the offseason. So it is good to see him rewarded, the recognition he is getting.
“It makes all the travel, the thousands of miles driven, worth it as well.”
Like any parents of a young adolescent, Stan and Tara have the normal parental concerns when it comes to their child moving forward with hockey.
“We have the normal parent concerns of a sixteen year old moving away from home,” said Stan. “If he did move away we ask questions about how is the organization, not the winning or losing record, but is it a stable organization with good management and also a good billet family and good schooling as well.”
With the help of friends, coaches and advisors, the Loewens are confident in the team that drafted their son.
“We are certainly happy with the organization in Kamloops. We have heard nothing but good things from multiple people, so we have been assured that there is a good ownership group and a good organization.”
Strong coaching has been an invaluable asset to Loewen’s development as a player over the last five seasons. It is his coach at the Bantam level, however, that gives Loewen all of the credit.
“His best attribute is his strength in general,” says Dwayne Swanson, head coach of the Interlake Lightning AAA Bantam team. “There were times were he basically carried our team on his shoulders, his competitiveness is just outstanding.”
“His work ethic is second to none as well, even with being the most talented kid on the team; he is always looking for more, trying to push harder every drill. He has got this thirst to learn, a good, good hockey player.”
Young Jermaine is very excited about his opportunities.
“I was really stoked, I’m really happy to be drafted by the Kamloops organization,” said Loewen. “I was hoping that got drafted and when I saw my name there I was really happy.”
When it comes to his future, Loewen makes no qualms about where he wants to be and what he wants to achieve: “I want to play in the NHL.”
Hockey Manitoba’s Program of Excellence (POE) fosters development for Manitoba-based players and provides opportunities for players to compete and represent their province and their country.