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Making his mark

By Nick Clark, 12/21/11, 11:36PM CST

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Former Park Center standout Tim Jackman parlayed his intensity, desire into NHL career

The hole in the glass surrounding the ice rink inside the Brooklyn Park Community Center was fixed long ago, but if you look close enough, there are remnants of its originator.

The rink is now home to the North Metro high school programs, but a little more than a decade ago, Park Center played its home hockey games there, a time when the Pirates had a realistic opportunity to play for a state boys championship in the 1999-2000 season.
 
The optimism stemmed from a week in January, when Park Center beat then-No. 1-ranked Elk River and No. 2 Blaine. And it was around then when that hole was punched through the glass -- courtesy of one Tim Jackman.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Terry Westermann, Park Center’s head coach at the time. “We were doing a simple puck drill that we were timing and Timmy did it and did it and did it, and screwed it up every time. And just out of pure frustration he just took his hockey stick and took a huge swing and it went right through the glass, butt end first. And the stick was buried through the glass.”

“That,” Westermann would finish, “is a competitor.”

Today, some would argue the rink attendants should have left the stick in place – a lasting impression, if you will, of a time once great in Brooklyn Park hockey.

Within five years the Park Center boys hockey program would be extinct – replaced by the cooperative program that now includes Park Center, Brooklyn Center, Fridley and Columbia Heights -– but the memories of Jackman linger on.

Jackman parlayed his high school exploits into a Division I scholarship to play for what was then Mankato State University (it’s now Minnesota State) in what were still the infancy stages of the Mavericks’ move to Division I college hockey.

He spent two years in Mankato before signing his first professional contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization prior to the 2002-03 season. Jackman played two seasons with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League before making his NHL debut late in the 2003-04 season.

A year later, he was dealt to Phoenix, and then Los Angeles and finally to the New York Islanders.

“You find out in a hurry it’s a business,” Jackman said. “You are kind of this little fish in a big pond, and you find out you have to be professional all the time, because when things are going like that, you are not sure where you’ll be playing next.”

Eventually, Jackman ended up -– for the time being, anyway -– in Calgary.

Jackman spent parts of three seasons in the Islanders organization, dressing in 159 games for the big club before landing with the Flames for the 2010-11 season.

Jackman played in all 82 games for Calgary last winter, finishing the season with career highs in goals (10), assists (13) and, obviously, points (23). It felt like a long time coming for the former Park Center star, who needed eight full seasons of professional hockey before making it through an entire season in the NHL.

“I had to work hard for it, but it was a great year,” Jackman said. “I remember texting my sister and saying how much fun I was having. It was the greatest year of my hockey career. There was a great group of guys, and I finally felt that all the stuff I was trying to add to my game, and to become more professional, all came together for me.”

Nobody new it for certain at the time, but the road he traveled to Calgary started in Brooklyn Park with a work ethic that displayed the type of mentality one needs to jam his stick through a pane of Plexiglass.

Westermann said Jackman was never flashy and rarely scored those highlight-reel goals high school kids with a surefire NHL future oftentimes bury.

“One important thing for the kids to understand is that he wasn’t one of those prolific scorers,” Westermann said. “He wasn’t one of those guys like a Dave Spehar that could just snipe. He was a pounder and a grinder. His skating stride needed some work, and his shot needed a lot of work. But he had the intensity to just keep working, and he found ways. People called his goals garbage goals, but they were pretty important goals.”

And he was scoring them for Park Center, which was not a guarantee after his junior year. That offseason, Jackman’s family met with Westermann to discuss the possibilities of skipping his senior year to play a full season with the Twin Cities Vulcans of the United States Hockey League.

But there was more than just hockey that went into his decision -– namely a group of friends that Jackman had spent his entire life playing with.

“All I told him was that the friendship with his buddies will last a lifetime,” Westermann said. “If you leave and go play juniors, you are only establishing yourself. The world is not about yourself, it’s about relationships with your friends and family.”

Said Jackman, “I had to choose, and I chose my friends. Talking to a lot of the guys, they wouldn’t have been too happy if I didn’t come back, but I wanted to come back, and I was glad I did, because we had a good team that senior year.”

The Pirates’ season ended with a section semifinal loss to Blaine, a team that went on to win the state championship a few weeks later.

Jackman, who played a split season with the Vulcans that year, spent the last month of his hockey season in the USHL after the high school season ended. Two years in the WCHA and eight more at various pro levels have brought him to Calgary.

Jackman still lives in Minnesota during the offseason, working out at Velocity Sports in Eden Prairie, but he’s taken a liking to Calgary and the pressure-packed hockey life of the NHL.

It’s a job, but it’s a great one for the kid whose intensity left more than a mark on the glass in Brooklyn Park.

“I’ve come a long ways from those days at Park Center, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world,” Jackman said. “For that to lead to this, playing in Calgary, it’s really cool. On top of having a good year individually, it was one of the best atmospheres you can play in. They love their hockey, and they are passionate about it. They want to win, and there is pressure, but it is good pressure.

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