Jermaine Loewen longs to be The Second One.
The left wing for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League dreams of becoming the second Jamaican-born player to skate in the National Hockey League, standing on the broad shoulders of Graeme Townshend.
Townshend was a rugged right wing who played 67 NHL games for the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators. Loewen, who was born in Jamaica and raised in Manitoba, inched closer to his dream Monday when he turned 18 – the minimum age to be eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft.
“I think about that a lot , it’s like, ‘aw, man, I want to be the second guy,'” Loewen told Canada’s Sportsnet of joining Townshend in hockey history books “I just really want to make that happen.”
Loewen is also excited about the possibility of someday seeing Jamaica compete in the Winter Olympics in hockey. The Caribbean island nation, known for its Olympic track and field prowess and for having the world’s funkiest bobsled team, is an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The Jamaica Ice Hockey Federation has been scouring Canada and the United States for Caribbean expatriate hockey talent in hopes of forming a touring team this summer to boost interest in the program and to attract sponsors for its Winter Olympics endeavor.
The national team effort will need deep pockets to field a team and to help build an ice skating rink in Jamaica, a requirement for full IIHF membership. In hockey’s six degrees of separation, Jamaica’s coaching staff is headed by none other than Graeme Townshend.
“To have an Olympic team is huge, especially the fact that we’re so small. I’m really happy that they’re making progress,” Loewen told NewsKamloops earlier this month. “Oh yeah…I definitely dream about it…maybe someday going and playing for that. There still is a lot of stuff to work out to get to that level. It’s a pretty big deal. I find it really cool.”
Townshend says he would love to see Loewen – all 6-foot-3, 205 pounds of him – don Jamaica’s flashy green, yellow, and black jersey. In time.
“You know what? I’m hoping that he’s Canadian hockey material first, to be honest,” Townshend told me recently. “Selfishly, of course, I’d love to have him on our team. But I’d like to see him be considered for Team Canada at some point. I know he’s Jamaican, but he grew up in Canada, I’m sure he has a soft spot in his heart for Canada. Like every Canadian kid, he’d want to represent his country. At some point, I’m sure our paths will cross, but I’d like to see how far he can take this. If he could play for Canada in the World Juniors, that would be amazing.”
Everything about Loewen’s hockey journey has been amazing thus far. Adopted from an orphanage in Mandeville, Jamaica, and relocated to rural Arborg, Manitoba, when he was five, Loewen didn’t lace on a pair of skates until he was six – late by Canadian standards.
He didn’t play his first organized hockey game until he was 10. But that didn’t stop him from getting drafted by the Blazers, a Canadian major junior team, six years later.
Year One with the Blazers was a learning curve for Loewen. He was scoreless in 37 games and amassed 24 penalty minutes. In 39 games this season, he has 5 goals, 3 assists, and a robust 39 penalty minutes.
Loewen wasn’t among the players listed Tuesday in NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings of players eligible for the June draft in Buffalo. Still, Townshend is impressed with what Loewen has accomplished so far and believes that he has the raw talent and determination to eventually be chosen by an NHL team.
“His is one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard,” Townshend said. “Obviously when you start playing organize hockey at 10 when other kids start at six or seven, you’re way behind. He’s made up a lot of ground in a very short period of time. That says a lot about his character.”