After a breakout season this past year, Oregon native Jasper Weatherby recently decided to return to University of North Dakota for his Senior season to finish his degree. As a San Jose Sharks draft pick, he had the opportunity to sign his first pro contract, but had some unfinished business after UND suffered a heartbreaking loss in the 5th (!) overtime period of their NCAA Regional Championship. He was an Assistant Captain as a Junior, and is in the running for Team Captain this next year. He was more than willing to answer some questions for us about his hockey career that started here in the Pacific Northwest.
Walk us through your Oregon hockey roots.
I started hockey at the age of 8 when my best friend (Paiute Morrison, who actually goes to the University of Oregon and plays on their hockey team) and his family invited me to go to the Rink (located in Medford, Oregon). I played in-house hockey for a couple of years and then joined the travel team. We hardly ever had enough players so we often had a wide range of ages, and I played up most years. I also played in the annual 3-on-3 tournament at the little outdoor rink in the tiny town I’m from, Ashland. One great thing about hockey in our valley is that the adults welcome younger players at their drop-ins, so I had the chance to play with much better players and get mentored by some outstanding people in my community.
Was roller hockey a part of your development?
I lived on rollerblades. I never played any organized roller hockey, but almost every Christmas my family would buy me a new pair of rollerblades. Paiute and I lived 2 doors down from each other and would rollerblade to school, play street hockey, and rollerblade to the store. We basically lived on our rollerblades so much, the wheels would get worn down every couple of weeks.
When did you have to move away to further your career? Where did you go, and what options did you explore?
I started traveling in 8th grade to Vancouver, B.C. for a spring league I was recruited into and then left home for good in 9th grade at the age of 13. I went to the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Ottawa. I looked at several boarding schools and found CIH to be the best option, especially with the financial package they were able to give me. It was a great decision; I had excellent coaches, and we played in a high-level league. It was a big eye-opener and I remember thinking, wow there are some really really good hockey players out there.
How did you end up in Wenatchee?
I got invited to try out for Wenatchee after not making a number of junior teams, so it was kind of my last opportunity, and luckily I was able to make the team.
You committed to UND in your final year of juniors, tell us about the process. Were you in touch with other schools? Did you have any connections to college hockey through family or coaches?
In my first year in Wenatchee I received zero offers and talked to maybe one school. The next year I kind of got my opportunity after putting in a lot of hard work in the summer. I was lucky enough to get contacted by a number of schools. None of my family has ever played hockey so I had no connections through them, but the coaches in Wenatchee are top-notch and helped me through the entire experience.
Did you ever consider playing Major Juniors?
I never really considered it. I’ve always wanted to go the college route. As a kid, my dad took me to a couple of Portland Winterhawks games and I was invited to some WHL camps. But my goal was always to play college hockey so I could get my degree.
The summer before your freshman year at UND, you got drafted by the San Jose Sharks in your final year of eligibility. What were your expectations going into that draft, as well as previous drafts?
I was really surprised I got drafted. I was kind of a late bloomer and never had any interest from any teams my first two years of eligibility. In my final year I remember talking to some teams and thinking it was really cool and exciting, but didn’t think I’d actually get drafted. As the season went on, I realized it might be something that could happen, and I was lucky enough to get drafted by what I consider my hometown team. They are closest NHL team to southern Oregon, I grew up driving 6 hours south to watch hockey games at the Shark Tank!
UND is famous for its opulent rink and rowdy fanbase. Do you have a favorite rink in Oregon, or from the BCHL? Any BCHL fanbases that stuck with you?
My favorite rink in Oregon is definitely the Rrrink in Medford or the outdoor rink in Ashland. In the BCHL I loved to play at the Town Toyota Center. The fans in Wenatchee are second to none and the building is top-notch!
How often do you cross paths with former BCHL teammates or opponents in college hockey? Are you expected to give scouting reports on your former teammates?
It’s pretty common and a lot of fun when I play a former teammate, with a little extra motivation to come out on the other side with the win. As for a pre-scout it’s not expected; the coaches do such a good job scouting, but something they will ask about a guy’s personality or tendencies.
Your profile in the world of college hockey increased drastically this past year, both for your success on the ice, and leadership off the ice. Can you explain what you’ve been doing away from the game to receive this recognition?
I think sometimes as hockey players or athletes in general we get put into a box of just being athletes or hockey players. For me, this past year was a great opportunity to show that we might be athletes, but we will always be people first. I’ve been trying to be vocal about some of the issues I feel strongly about. While I know it might not be everyone’s path, I think it’s important to stand up for what we believe in, and to use our voices to make a positive difference.
Was there anything in your routines or lifestyle that helped you come on so strong during the second half of the season, either new or sustained? Seemed like you scored a goal in every game those last few months.
I think just being able to get into a role and find some comfort with my linemates. I try to keep my routines pretty normal. I tend to believe if you do the right things and keep it simple, good things will happen. I was lucky enough to have the puck start going in. Hopefully, I can build on that to start next year.
What advice would you give to a young Oregonian looking to navigate their own hockey odyssey?
I would say just believe in yourself. There was this stigma around not being from a huge hockey hotbed, which is something I’m trying to change because it’s not the setting that matters, it’s what you do with it. Wherever you’re from, be it Toronto or a little town in Oregon, you have to work hard, be a good teammate, but most importantly love what you are doing. Sometimes I see players from big hockey towns not fully grasp what they have. I think being from somewhere like Oregon where ice is hard to find will give you some perspective of how lucky you are to be playing hockey when you do get the chance. I would encourage any kid from Oregon or a small hockey town to reach out to me if they have any questions and I will be happy to share what I can.
One last question: Ducks, Beavers, or neither?
Ducks! My brother and Paiute go there! Let’s get a division one hockey team there and an NHL team in Portland.