Pro athletes at a certain age or stage in their minor-league careers often see the writing on the wall.
For Stouffville native Jamie Wise, that stage was nearing.
The former Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and Ryerson Rams forward signed a two-way AHL/ECHL deal last week with the Rockford IceHogs, the affiliate for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.
Wise, 23, had just finished playing with the Blackhawks in the NHL’s rookie tournament in London when he got the call.
Graham Wise, Jamie’s father and a former coach with the Rams, is proud and hopeful that the time is right for his son’s career to take off.
“He’s thrilled,” says Graham, from outside his office at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. “He wasn’t expecting it (even though) he had a great last year at Ryerson.”
Officially, it wasn’t his first NHL tryout.
Wise had been invited as far as main camp for the Buffalo Sabres two years ago. He never made it there as the NHL lockout forced him attend camp instead in Rochester with the Americans of the AHL.
“When I got the call from Buffalo, I was coming off a pretty good season in the OHL so I kind of expected that,” says Jamie over the phone. “(This year’s offer) caught me off guard but I was really excited when I got the call.”
Wise led the Rams in scoring in 2013-2014 with 45 points – good for third in the CIS – while being named a CIS Second-Team All-Canadian as well as the Rams’ MVP. After playing 142 games in the OHL with Mississauga and Peterborough, his last year with Ryerson went a long way towards breaking through with the IceHogs.
“Last year was good,” says Jamie. “We had a good line that I played with all year (in) Mike Fine and Domenic Alberga. They used to play in the OHL as well so their skill level is right up there.
“I think we delivered.”
Still, his success with the Rams and his previous tryout with the Sabres didn’t make the call he received from Rockford any less of a surprise.
His father, however, has seen his son succeed first-hand and was not surprised in the least that another team was after his son’s services.
“It’s a confidence thing,” says Graham. “It seems he’s the type of person (where) whatever (situation) he ends up playing in, he seems to be able to eventually come through. Now it’s just (about) working hard and moving forward.”
Wise Sr. can speak from experience, having once had a tryout with the New York Islanders in the mid-1970s. He’s passed on some advice, emphasizing the smaller details of how a camp works.
“Going to camp was tough because it’s a business and everybody’s battling for a job,” says Graham. “You may be having breakfast with a couple of buddies and you’re laughing and joking but then you get out on the ice and it’s all serious.
“The guy you had breakfast with might be battling for (your) spot.”
With so many players in the AHL at different points in their long and winding careers, Jamie tries to remain grounded with regard to expectations.
“I know that the NHL is unrealistic right now but for me I just want to stick with the AHL team instead of getting called up and down from the East Coast league,” the forward says.
“I just want to crack the lineup every night for Rockford but if that doesn’t happen I’m not going to hold my head and cry about it.
“I’ll just work even harder to keep myself up there.”