Vermilion Hockey Player In Top Tier Of United Kingdom
From left, Jamie Crooks playing with the Victoria Royals, the U of A Golden Bears, and currently with the Guildford Flames. Photos submitted
Vermilion’s Jamie Crooks recently signed his first professional hockey deal with the Guildford Flames in England. They are part of the Elite Ice Hockey League, which is the top-tier of hockey in the United Kingdom. Teams in the league are located in England, Scotland, Ireland and Whales.
Twenty-six-year-old Jamie was born and raised in Vermilion and attended St. Jerome's School. He played his Tom Thumb, Atom and Peewee years with Vermilion Minor Hockey.
“Jamie was always very passionate about the game of hockey. It was always his favourite; his first passion. Children in Vermilion were very fortunate to have two indoor rinks available, so lots of ice time was accessible. Every winter the parents on Young Drive would get together and build a rink on two lots that were vacant at the time. It was well used by all of the children on the block and it was not uncommon for Jamie's mom or myself to have to go round him and his older brother and sister up for events like supper, homework, or bedtime,” said Jamie’s father, Jim.
Jamie played his two seasons of Bantam hockey in the Alberta Bantam AAA League with the Lloydminster Heat. He had success there making the All-star team and leading the league in scoring in his second season.
“Our children were very sports minded which was good because it meant they didn’t have as much time to get into trouble. They also played baseball in the summer, and Jamie and his brother played in the Alberta Junior Golf Tour. Sports kept them active, and it taught them a lot about interacting. Their mother, Jacquie, spent a lot of time driving, and some weekends we had to enlist Grandma, Jane Mercer, to drive one of them.
Playing hockey both in Vermilion and in Lloydminster were both good experiences for Jamie. Hockey is all about coaches, and friends playing, and social gatherings,” said Jim.
He continued to play one year of Midget AAA in Lloydminster before being drafted (at the age of 17) by the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He was then traded to the Chilliwack Bruins (who were owned by Brian Burke and Glen Sather) and played two seasons with them. The team was sold to a group from Victoria and became the Victoria Royals where Jamie played two more seasons in the WHL.
He was then scouted by the U of C, UBC, and other teams who wanted him to play, but Jamie chose the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“He played a lot of good hockey! The thing about the Western Hockey League is that you get a full years’ scholarship to Canadian Universities for each year played. Jamie went to the U of A playing five seasons with them while being enrolled in Kinesiology. He did well in the WHL but his best years were at U of A; they have a very strong program,” said Jim.
Playing university hockey, Jamie won four West Canada Championships and three National Championships. After winning his last National Championship in the spring of 2018, Jamie was looking to play professional hockey in Europe. According to Jim, he received offers from teams in Poland, Denmark, France, and the Guildford Flames of the British Elite League. Knowing a couple of their players as past teammates, and knowing that he wouldn’t experience any language barriers, Jamie chose to sign with the Guildford Flames. Jamie travelled to England at the end of August to begin training camp and is just beginning a 60-game schedule.
“He seems to really be enjoying it, although he’s a man of few words. He wanted to make a career out of hockey in some facet, so for him to play pro in Europe, we are very happy to see him succeed,” said Jim.
His parents are hoping to go to England to watch him play sometime in the spring. To follow Jamie with the Guilford Flames, you can visit https://guildfordflames.com/ or visit his player page at http://elite.wttstats.pointstreak.com/playerpage.html?playerid=10968691&seasonid=18469.