Throughout the season, the Tomahawks will throw the spotlight on our coaches, players, and other staff members with special features, interviews, and videos that will help you, the fans, get to know your team a little better. In this week’s edition of “5 Minute Major,” we’re placing your Head Coach Jason Spence in the penalty box to answer 5 questions. Luckily for us, he didn’t have his eyes on the clock, counting the seconds until his escape; he was more than happy to share his thoughts on hockey, coaching, and Johnstown.
Q: You’re originally from Nova Scotia, but you played here for seven seasons and now live here. What made Johnstown feel like home?
A: I came here in 1999 after playing in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League. I had just turned 20, and the town took me in and made me feel at home. People took me hunting and fishing and gave me a heart-warming welcome. In that aspect, it was like I never left home.
Q: Did you have any superstitions or pre-game rituals as a player?
A: Yes, lots of them. I always put my gear on the same way – always the left side before the right side. I did the same warm-up and taped my stick the exact same way before every game. I always ate pasta and chicken for my pre-game meal. And, I had the same spot for my stick.
Q: Now as coach, what qualities are you looking for in your players, both on and off the ice?
A: You can tell a lot about a person by the way they conduct themselves off the ice and how they interact with the public and other people in general. During my first year in Johnstown, my coach Scott Allen told us in one of his speeches that no matter how bad or how good the game was, you have to conduct yourself in a professional manner when you leave the arena. So, I was taught at a young age to appreciate and respect the community and the people who support your team, even on your bad days. That’s what I’ll be looking for in my players.
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up? Was there anyone who you tried to model your style of play after?
A: Mark Messier. He was a power forward who was very tough, but also a scorer. I grew up playing defense, but I always wanted to play forward and never had the opportunity. Then, when I reached the junior level, my coach put me on forward, and I tried to follow Messier’s leadership and character. He won a lot of Stanley Cups as a captain. He will be known in my book as one of the best team leaders of all time. He’s someone whom I valued and emulated.
Q: What is your favorite hockey memory?
A: When I was 19 I went to the Chicago Blackhawks training camp. I sat down in the locker room with all the big stars around me, and it motivated me. At a young age I had the opportunity to play alongside great hockey players, including Doug Gilmour, Paul Coffey, and Chris Chelios. And, another hero of mine Bob Probert was on the team.