HOLDEN — Winning a captaincy as a junior in high school is a rare touch in any sport, but not so much when the honor is passed to Wachusett Regional High junior ice hockey co-captain Dennis Jardine.
Jardine checks all the boxes for ideal qualities in a team model. Leadership by example, a hard worker with an almost impeccable understanding of the game, and the ability to inspire and demonstrate confidence are just some of the attributes he possesses. While assembling his 2021-22 roster, WRHS college ice hockey head coach Matt Lane barely blinked when he selected Jardine, a 5-foot-11 forward. of Holden, for a role as co-captain of the team. Lane never looked back on the decision.
“Dennis is a great boy and a talented hockey player,” Lane said. “He’s led our team in scoring since the very first game and continues to be our leading scorer with 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in 11 games. He is also an excellent captain, leading by example on and off the ice. He’s a straight kid in the classroom and he’s still our hardest working player in practice.
“Since I was young, I have always tried to lead by example as my parents taught me,” Jardine said. “Working hard is the best way to show people around you that you care, not just in sports, but also in the classroom and in life. Hard work goes a long way.
The commitment to the game came early for Jardine and his teammates, with whom he became close on and off the ice. It was a progression spanning a decade or more that saw his skills and maturity shine where they are today.
Being able to get out of his back door and practice on the ice whenever he wanted also helped.
“I had done some ‘learning to skate’ before that, but it was definitely a slow start,” he said. “When I had a few years under my belt, we built an ice rink in our back yard, which we’ve had for a few years now. To start, I remember skating with a chair in front of me.
“I started playing the Lakers (youth hockey), a team from Lake Ave. (Worcester), then I moved to the Crusaders for two or three years. And then I started playing for the NorthStars. This is where I really started to get better. My coach there was Guy LaRose, who played in the NHL, and he taught us some really good things there. I played for them for nine years and really improved. This year I moved to the Railers (U-16 travel team) and we won the state championship. After the school season is over, we travel to Michigan for the Nationals.
“Over time, I fell in love with the game and I have to give my coach (LaRose) a lot of credit. He coached us with a lot of emotion and taught us the right way to play. I worked hard, and that, plus the coaching, really gave me a passion for the game.”
The playoffs, which were sorely missed a season ago due to the pandemic, return at the end of the team’s regular season schedule. The team must hit a record .500 to earn a spot, and getting there will be a battle until the end, as the team was 4-6-1 at The Landmark press time. Jardine knows this 2021-2022 squad is capable of getting the job done. He also acknowledges that playing in front of sparse crowds (due to COVID-19) has not been an optimal situation.
“We’ve been really close in a lot of games, and it seems like every night we end up fighting instead of the other team beating us,” he said. “Everyone comes together in terms of conditioning, skill and everyone really trusts each other. I think things are falling into place and we’re going to turn things around.
“The playoffs are motivation to work hard in practices, and the extra work is a reminder that the extra sprints can help motivate your team and get you ready for games. Our goal is to win a championship and represent our school. This is the motivation we have in mind.
“I didn’t play a lot my first year, and last year we didn’t have any fans (due to COVID). There was a bit of nervous energy, but after the first two games, the things started to settle, and now it’s just a habit. Sometimes it’s a little discouraging not having our school there to cheer us on. On the nights you don’t feel it, you can draw from energy in the crowd, but you have to realize that you are playing for your teammates and not the crowd because you know that when it counts, your teammates will put it all on the line for you.”
Jardine, a member of the National Honor Society, is unquestionably proud of his status as captain and the responsibility of representing his school and the community. He knows this is special, especially following in the footsteps of other standout players who have come before him.
“Wearing the Wachusett uniform means a lot, especially knowing the people who came before us who put it on every game like we do,” he said. “It’s very important to know that your school depends on you and all the teachers at the school, especially the coaching staff, who have played for the school in the past. You want to continue the legacy.