There are many formative platforms that go into elevating players to the National Hockey League.
A crucial stage for Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn and Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jordie Benn was with the Victoria Grizzlies of the B.C. Hockey League. It was announced that Jamie’s No. 16 and Jordie’s No. 8 Grizzlies jerseys will be retired and will hang from the rafters of The Q Centre.
The jerseys will be concurrently hoisted in a ceremony during the Grizzlies’ 2018-19 BCHL home opener Sept. 15 against the Penticton Vees.
Because both siblings will be in their respective NHL training camps at that time, a pre-ceremony was held Wednesday at The Q Centre, with the brothers in attendance to receive the jerseys before they go up.
Jamie Benn, a gold medallist for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, played one season for the Grizzlies but it was an impactful one on several levels. He scored 42 goals with 65 points in 53 regular-season games, adding five goals and nine points in 11 playoff games in 2006-07.
“There were lots of good times here and that was a fun team with my linemates Tyler Bozak [now of the St. Louis Blues after nine NHL seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs] and Garry Nunn [who went onto a pro career in the ECHL, AHL and Europe]. I am still in contact with several of the players,” said Jamie.
The breakout numbers allowed Benn to get noticed by the Stars, who selected him with the bargain-basement 129th pick in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL draft.
“Looking back now, Jamie could have easily gone first overall,” said brother Jordie, of the Stars’ draft steal of that decade.
Both siblings, lightly regarded initially, are studies in perseverance.
“It shows to stick with what you love, even if you have many doubters, because you never know what will happen,” said Jamie Benn, the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy winner as NHL points scoring champion.
None, however, was more so an example of fortitude than six-foot-two Jordie Benn, who played three seasons on the Grizzlies’ blue line, and graduated as captain of the team in 2007-08. Unheralded and undrafted, he went through the minor pros, starting in the ECHL with the hometown Victoria Salmon Kings. At last count, Jordie has played 392 NHL regular-season games with the Stars and, in the last two seasons, with the Montreal Canadiens.
“My dad [former world and Pan Am Games gold-medallist national team softball player Randy Benn] said you have a dream, so go out and chase it,” said Jordie.
“I owe everything to him.”
And also a lot to the Grizzlies.
“This was the perfect place for me to start. I learned so much,” said Jordie, who turns 31 today.
Added 29-year-old Jamie: “I couldn’t have done it without everyone in this Grizzlies organization. It was that key step up for me from the Panthers [Peninsula of the Island Junior Hockey League]. It’s definitely going to be an honour to have my jersey up in the rafters with Jordie’s and other great players.”
Perhaps most memorably for the brothers, they got to play together during Jamie’s season with the Grizzlies before he went onto two seasons in the major-junior Western Hockey League with the Kelowna Rockets and winning a gold medal with Canada in the 2009 world junior championship.
“That’s what made that [2006-07 Grizzlies] season an absolute blast, and so special,” said Jordie Benn.
“I thought playing together would never happen again, but we did again in Dallas.”
Soon, their Grizzlies jerseys will be together again at the top of The Q Centre.
“We’re a grassroots organization,” said Grizzlies president Lance Black.
With some big-time alumni.
“When new players [being recruited] learn that players like Jamie and Jordie Benn and Tyler Bozak played for this organization, they start to think that they want to play for our organization, too.”