The injury bug tripped up Jamieson Rees’ desire to hit the ground running for a second consecutive season.
But after missing two months to a lacerated kidney this year, the Hamilton-born center is looking to build confidence and make an impact on the ice for the Sarnia Sting.
Ironically, confidence was one thing Rees didn’t think he was going to have to worry about this season.
“Last year it was difficult to get confidence, especially being injured as much as I was,” he said. “This year, the confidence was definitely different and it was a big thing for me. I know I’ve been out for a bit again, but my confidence will come back and that will be a huge part for me.
“I’m feeling good. I feel a lot better. Obviously, it’s going to take me a few games to get back into it, but I’m feeling really good today [before Sunday’s contest against the London Knights], so let’s hope I show well on the ice.”
Rees’ rookie season was delayed by a high ankle sprain suffered at the Under-17 tryouts. He missed much of the preseason and the first few games of the Ontario Hockey League season. He suffered another ankle sprain later in the season and missed another month.
He finished with five goals and 15 assists in just 46 games.
This year, he started the season with a goal and two assists in his first three games before getting injured during a Sept. 29th game against the Soo Greyhounds.
He didn’t reutrn to action until Nov. 29th.
“We were just kind of skating towards each other and the puck just happened to be to my right side,” said Rees, who missed 23 games with a lacerated kidney.
“I turned to reach for it and he didn’t see me. He just stick his stick out to protect himself and it just happened to get me in the right spot.
“I had a feeling it was in the general area of my kidney but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I kind of thought it could be a back sprain or something, but I had no idea, so I just continued to play. After the game, the doctor said I should go get it checked out and that’s when I found out.”
Though held pointless in his first two games back, Rees said he got over one major milestone.
“I’ve actually taken a few hits, but no problems at all — it feels fine,” he said. “It’s kind of a stress reliever.”
So too will be when he feels fully up to speed.
Rees doesn’t expect it to take long.
“[The only treatment was] just rest,” he said. “I just calmed down for a couple of weeks and when I felt ready I got back into the gym, put on a couple of pounds, and I feel better now. [The doctor] cleared me to play. As much conditioning as you do off-ice, it’s not similar to skating. A couple of games will go by and I’ll feel a lot better.
“Going into junior hockey, I hadn’t really had any injuries. The last two season, I’ve been hit with a couple of them.”
Assistant coach Brad Staubitz said Rees’ work ethic and dedication has helped him return so seamlessly back into the Sting lineup.
“The work he’s putting it, everything comes out in the wash in my mind,” Staubitz said. “What you put into it is what you get out. He stepped back in after his most recent injury and competed as if he hadn’t missed a beat.”
And having Rees back in action has residual impacts up and down the lineup.
“It’s contagious the way he plays — that’s his best quality, the way he competes, plus he’s got an unreal skillset,” Staubitz explained. “But it’s mostly the way he competes that kind of bleeds through our team and shows him as a leader on the ice.”
Rees said he’s happy to bring that energy to the team.
It’s something he experienced as a member of the gold-medal winning squad at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
“I think more that tournament is to fill roles,” he said. “Obviously we have a lot of skilled players, so I think my role on that team was to be an energy guy. I thought that was how I was going to make the team and that’s exactly the type of play I was playing in tryouts. They liked it.”
He sees his role in Sarnia having a similar foundation.
But with more expectations and responsibilities.
“I obviously play something of an energy role because I’m such an aggressive player, but I think here I bring a little bit more of offensive strengths,” Rees said. “I did [in the Hlinka] too, but here it’s more of a focus, as opposed to throwing a big hit every chance I get.”
Staubitz said that Rees’ combination of energy and skill is valuable to the squad.
“I think that’s a huge aspect of his game,” Staubitz said. “When you can compete shift-in, shift-out like that, good things happen. For him, he’s got a tonne of skill too, so when you combine them both, he’s a pretty well-rounded player.”