The Elmira Jackals are at the top of their conference in the Eastern Central Hockey League and Whitehorse’s Jordan Lane is part of the New York team’s success.
As a young, first-year player on the team, Lane is fighting for game-time every week, but is having the time of his life.
“It’s a fun time; I’m enjoying every minute of playing pro hockey,” said Lane. “Not many guys can say they get to do this for a job … It’s everything you can imagine.”
The former Whitehorse Mustangs rep player is the Yukon’s only current professional hockey player. Playing at the pro-level is a dream for Lane, and the Jackals team seems to be a good fit for the 22-year-old.
“It’s a great place to be,” said Lane. “It’s a great team atmosphere. Everyone likes each other and we all get along great. I can’t say anything bad about it.”
“He’s a great young man and we like him a lot here in Elmira. Not only is he popular with his teammates, his coach likes and respects him a great deal,” said Jackals head coach Pat Bingham.
“He’s a hard worker and he’ll do anything for his teammates. He’s very coachable and he has a tremendous amount of potential as a professional hockey player.
“He has a lot of things you can’t teach, with his size and willingness to stick up for his teammates. He’s one of our most intelligent players in the defensive zone … and that’s a huge asset.”
The Jackals are currently leading the eastern conference with 53 points (not including Thursday night’s game) and second in the AA league behind the Alaska Aces.
Lane played 21 of the team’s first 39 games this season, producing one goal and one assist so far.
“I’ve been in and out of the line-up. I’m a guy fighting for a position every night,” he said in a telephone interview this week from just outside Atlanta, Georgia. That’s where the Jackals played the Gwinnett Gladiators on Thursday.
Unfortunately for the forward, Lane often finds himself the odd guy out. Teams in the ECHL dress 10 forwards a game, making three lines of three, leaving one player as the hockey equivalent to a spare tire. However, as a defensive-forward, Lane is put on the ice when the Jackals see a lead slipping.
“In our league we have 10 forwards that we dress (for games),” said Bingham. “In the American league and the NHL they dress four complete lines. So the idea with 10 forwards is to get more playing time for everybody involved. At the same time, it hurts the flow (to make a substitution) when you have three lines going. Sometimes it leaves that 10th guy stuck there. Being a young guy, he’s found himself in that 10th guy role. But he’s an extremely positive guy … and when he gets his chance he always gives us a solid shift.
“On certain nights he plays a lot down the stretch when we’re trying to preserve a one-goal lead because he’s so reliable defensively.”
As the biggest player on the team, at six foot eight and 243 pounds, enforcer is another role for Lane. But there hasn’t been a great need for an enforcer on the Jackals, he said.
“In other leagues I’d be more of a tough guy in the enforcer role,” said Lane. “So far this year there aren’t as many enforcers on other teams for me to tangle with. I actually have to play a solid role on the ice.”
Lane has worn a lot of different jerseys since his time in Mustang red, white and black. Last season he played 62 games for the Evansville IceMen in the Central Hockey League, accumulating three goals and about 160 penalty minutes. The previous season he played for the Mississippi RiverKings in the same league.
Before the RiverKings, Lane wrapped up his junior career with the Neepawa Natives out of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. In his final season of junior play, he had nine goals and 12 assists in 57 games.
Prior to Neepawa, he played on the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with fellow Yukoner Ted Stephens. He also spent a season with the Dawson Kings in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Junior A.
“I’m just trying to see how far I can make it with hockey right now,” said Lane. “I just have to keep working at it and hopefully one day I can crack the next level.”
The ECHL is one level below the AHL, which is one below the NHL. It’s a smaller jump between levels than one might think. The Jackals are affiliated with NHL teams, the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks, and AHL teams, the Binghamton Senators and the Syracuse Crunch.
“We have numerous guys getting called up every week and being sent down every week from the American league,” said Lane. “We have our two main affiliates – the Binghamton Senators and the Syracuse Crunch. And we have lots of movement going up and down with them.”
In fact, former Buffalo Sabres captain Craig Rivet, plays defence for the Jackals.
“Rivet is the big NHL star that we have on the team. He’s a great asset to have here,” said Lane. “He’s helped everyone on this team a lot.”
Only time will tell if Lane can break through to an even higher level of professional hockey, but his head coach seems to think that goal is within his grasp.
“His work effort is great, so if he continues to work on his skating – which is probably the one thing that’s holding him back, let’s say, the area that could improve the most – he could really take off and be a prospect,” said Bingham.
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