Editor’s note: The Examiner will be announcing the members of the Missouri Mavericks' Top 10 all-time team over the next two weeks. Each sports section will feature a member of the team, as voted on by fans on the Mavericks home web page. Ryan Jardine, an associate captain who was a heart-and-soul player for the early Mavericks, is featured today.
By Bill Althaus
Before the Missouri Mavericks were one of the elite teams in the Central Hockey League, they featured a revolving-door approach to players who would come and go without having the time to grab a cup of coffee.
That all changed when the Mavericks signed former NHL draft pick and rock-solid clubhouse leader Ryan Jardine, who is the newest member of the all-time top 10 team, as voted on by Missouri Mavericks fans.
“Jards was the guy who really helped build the foundation of our team,” team president Brent Thiessen said. “He was a pro when we needed a pro. The guys on the team really looked up to him because he was a guy who had played at every level – the NHL, the AHL, Europe. When we needed a real stabilizing force in the locker room, we got it when we signed Ryan Jardine.”
Jardine ended his 16-year pro career with the Mavericks from 2010 to 2013. He totaled 110 points in 145 games. But his stats don’t tell the real story.
Former Missouri Mavericks forward Toby Lafrance was one of Jardine's biggest fans.
Following one morning practice Jardine walked into the locker room and Lafrance said, “When you see pro in the dictionary, they should just have Jards’ picture. He is my hero. I love playing with Jards.”
That was the consensus of each of Jardine’s teammates in the team’s formative years.
“Jards taught the guys what it meant to be a pro,” Thiessen said. “He was the consummate professional. He had a great impact in the locker room. The guys looked up to him. He taught them as much about leadership as he did about how to play the game the right way.
“A lot of our younger players, like Toby, learned what it takes to be a pro from Ryan Jardine.”
Jardine might still be a member of the Mavericks, but in true Jardine fashion, he walked away from the game he loved to help his 5-year-old son Hudson deal with autism.
“Hudson is enrolled in a therapy program for three to four hours a day,” said Jardine, who now lives near Ottawa, Ontario. “He goes to kindergarten, then his therapy program. He still isn’t talking, but I think he’s doing well. It was so important to get him enrolled in this program.
“We’re just taking it day by day, and are so thankful he’s in this program.”
Jardine and his wife Amanda also have a 2-year-old daughter, Emerson.
“She talks enough for Hudson and herself,” Jardine quipped. “We’re doing great, and I’m working to become a refrigerator mechanic. I went to school, now I’m working on apprenticeship. But I haven’t walked away from hockey altogether.
“I’m helping coach a Junior A team that a good friend of mine is coaching. He gives me free reign, so I can come to practices and games when it doesn’t interfere with my work. And I love it.”
He also loves the fact that Mavericks fans remembered what he meant to the team in the formative years.
“This is a nice surprise,” Jardine said. “When I think back to those early years, I think of what Carlyle Lewis meant to the team. I really hope Lewie makes the (all-time) team because he was the first captain and a guy I really respected. To me, Lewie was the face of the franchise.
“When I look back at the three years I played with the Mavericks, I have so many great memories. The first would be stepping on the ice for my first game with 5,800 fans cheering and going crazy. We had great fans, and every home game was special. But I have one regret. I wanted to be on the team that gave our fans a championship, and that never happened. But I like what the team is doing and I think this might be the year they win a championship.”