Jordan Spence’s early life was punctuated by three recurring themes; moving around, adapting to change and displaying a penchant for playing the game he loves. In these aspects, this season has been a reflection of those younger years.
For Spence, who arrived in Cornwall, PEI at the age of 14 following his birth in Australia and time spent in Japan, where he was introduced to hockey, the fall of 2020 saw him make Moncton his starting point. It was also his point for starting all over again after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the prospect of a potentially long postseason run for an uber-talented Wildcats squad the previous spring.
“We had a great run in the second half (in Moncton) and there was a lot of excitement, but COVID hit and there was no control over things,” Spence recalled. “After hearing the playoffs would be cancelled it was devastating. We had a great group of guys.”
Spence, last year’s Emile-Bouchard Trophy winner as the QMJHL’s top defenseman, went from a leader on the Wildcats blueline to the leader early this season, securing a number of wins for a team that had experienced a deep roster turnover.
This, and all the accomplishments that preceded it, was enough to earn Spence a look at Team Canada’s camp in advance of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta. That look became a roster spot which, in turn, became a silver medal. And from there, it was on the road again; this time to Val-d’Or and one of the powerhouses of the “Q” this year.
In a year when adaptability has been a way of life for everybody, Spence is certainly no exception. From anchor in Moncton to depth player in Edmonton to hired gun in Val-d’Or, the LA Kings 2019 draftee has seen it all, in ways few ever will again, in a relatively brief window of time.
“I’ve travelled a lot this year,” Spence points out with a chuckle. “They have a great organization in Moncton. Then to make Team Canada, that’s every kid’s dream. I was so fortunate to play in the World Juniors. I’ve been lucky to get to Val-d’Or as well. The styles and methods were very different but I just had to adapt and know my role as my situation changed.”
When faced with that degree of change, anyone would feel fortunate to boast of even the slightest aspect of consistency, whether it’s on or off the ice. In Spence’s case, he needed to look no further than down the bench or on the ice to see a familiar face that’s greeted him in Moncton, Edmonton and, now, Val-d’Or.
“When I got the call saying I was traded to Val-d’Or, (Jakob Pelletier) was right there with me so he knew all about it too,” Spence explains. “We were really excited to be teammates again. I’ve actually been living with him at the same billet house in Val-d’Or. He’s my good buddy. We’re kind of like brothers being together in Moncton, the World Juniors and now in Val-d’Or. It’s pretty cool.”
“It’s also a second chance to go for the Cup with Jakob,” he adds. “We shared those same emotions together last year in Moncton. It’s exciting to try again to win that Cup.”
Of course, Spence and Pelletier aren’t the only stars brought to the Abitibi region to bring home what could be the club’s fourth President Cup. The airlift of talent orchestrated by General Manager Pascal Daoust boasts a veritable treasure trove of talented, eager young athletes.
“When I saw the trades for (Samuel) Poulin, (Nathan) Legare and (Xavier) Bernard, I immediately thought of all the leadership,” Spence says. “These are guys who’ve been captains. When we all got to Val-d’Or and started practising, that experience really helped us. We didn’t miss a beat from the start of the second half. The success we had in the regular season showed our leadership qualities and that we knew how to get the job done.”
It’s a job that carries a unique set of challenges in 2021. It’s also one Spence both appreciates and remains stoic about in reference to its completion.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us,” he stresses. “Victoriaville has a great team and they’ve shown it. But if we can win, it would just be the joy and happiness of having us come together as a team and saying, “we did it”. We’re looking forward to that moment if it happens. If we do our jobs and come prepared every day, we can do it. Hopefully we’ll have that moment.”
And of course, since one of the central figures has built his life on them, you could chalk it up to yet another moving moment.