Whitehorse’s hockey hero Jarrett Deuling had his name raised to the rafters at the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops last month.
The former Kamloops Blazers captain received the honour more than a decade after he led the team to its second of three Memorial Cup wins.
Deuling was humbled by both the crowd’s appreciation, and the list of names he joined as a Blazer Legend.
“When I looked up at all the names on the banner, I felt a little embarrassed,” he said Monday from his winter home in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Scott Neidermeyer, Darcy Tucker, Darryl Sydor, Shane Doan. Guys who really made a mark in the NHL.”
A career minor leaguer, Deuling spent most of his 20s playing with New York Islanders farm teams in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Lexington, where he would eventually put down roots.
The Blazers flew Deuling, his wife Carmella and their newborn son Logan to Kamloops for the banner raising, the first time he had been back to the city since playing there as a youth.
The trip brought back many memories, and lots of familiar faces.
His former coach, Don Hay, now coaching the Vancouver Giants, was on hand for the ceremony, which took place before a Saturday night Blazers-Giants game March 11.
“They planned it that way,” said Jarrett’s mom, Micki Deuling-Kenyon, who made the trip from Whitehorse. “They thought it would mean a lot to Jarrett for Don to be there, and it did.”
The family took in two games over the weekend and spent a lot of time meeting with the fans.
“So many people remembered him,” said Deuling-Kenyon. “It was fun.”
“Junior hockey towns really love their teams, it’s a great environment to play in, a lot of fun,” said Deuling.
He recalled how his local celebrity affected his lifestyle at the time. “Everyone knows who you are, so you can’t get in trouble or break curfew, he laughed. “They keep you in line.”
“Blazer faithful will never forget the ‘Deuler’, a junkyard dog if there ever was one,” wrote Spike Wallace, the Blazers alumni co-ordinator, in his introduction for the banner raising.
“He worked every shift, crashing and banging in front of the net.”
The Blazers of the early to mid ‘90s were considered the best junior team in North America, with several future NHL stars playing through their high-school years with the club, including Jarome Iginla.
After playing house league and rep-team hockey in Whitehorse, Deuling was scouted at a summer hockey camp in Kamloops and played four seasons with the team from 1990 to 1994.
“In his first year he didn’t score that many goals,” said Wallace, who served as the team’s trainer during Deuling’s time there.
“But he always had that physical presence on the ice, and strong leadership qualities that he kept all through his career.”
He was truly a force in his final season with the Blazers, scoring 44 goals and 59 assists in 70 games and leading his team to sweep the 1994 Memorial Cup finals against Laval.
Deuling hung up his skates for good after the 2001 season with the Lexington Thoroughblades of the American Hockey League, sticking to a promise he made to himself when the Islanders drafted him nine years earlier.
He would give himself to the age of 27 to break into the NHL. The 15 games he played with the Islanders went well, in his opinion, but budgets and business decisions kept him in the minors.
Deuling didn’t want a late-career injury to ruin the lifestyle he pursued outside of hockey.
“He always wanted to do other things; it’s so important for him to be active, to hunt and hike, and that’s always been his dream,” said Deuling-Kenyon. “He was very wise, and chose well.”
Yukon remains home for Deuling in many ways; he spends the summers here, guiding trips into the backcountry.
It’s a stark contrast to the pastures of bluegrass in his winter home, where he works with thoroughbred horses.
“There’s no open space in the state; the whole place is privately owned,” he said. “You take space for granted growing up in the Yukon.”
Even though he played professional hockey in Kentucky for four seasons, he bemoans the state of the game there.
“Oh man, there’s no hockey here, that’s another thing you take for granted living in Canada,” he laughed. “My son’s going to grow up not playing hockey.”