By Dave Eminian
Of The Journal Star
PEORIA, Ill. – Patience is more than just a virtue for Peoria Rivermen defenseman Jim Jackson.
“It’s the story of my career,” the sixth-year pro said. “Pretty much my whole career has been about having the patience for a chance to come my way.”
A chance for a bigger role with the AHL club came Jackson’s way this week when fellow blueliners Tyson Strachan and Jonas Junland were called-up by the parent club St. Louis Blues on consecutive days.
That left three Peoria defensemen on call-up. And that left Jackson, a healthy scratch in 10 of Peoria’s 28 games this season, as a guy the club will lean on when it opens a three-game weekend tonight against Iowa.
“I knew my role coming in here, knew I had guys ahead of me,” said Jackson, 28. “This is my job, my profession. Like anyone else out there, I have to keep myself ready physically, mentally, for every game as if I’m going to play.
“You have to be ready to step in when those chances come. If you give in to frustration, then you will fail.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Jackson is an outstanding offensive defenseman, overshadowed on a Peoria team that has had NHL-caliber puck-moving blueliners like Junland, Jeff Woywitka, and Steve Wagner.
Jackson played in the 2005 ECHL All-Star Game at Reading, Pa., representing Gwinnett, for whom he played parts of four seasons.
During that stretch he scored 52 goals in 226 games, plus 31 playoff contests.
He had brief AHL call-ups to Grand Rapids and Manitoba, then had a breakthrough when Peoria grabbed him late last season to shore up its battered defense unit.
Jackson was impressive, and the Rivermen signed him to a two-way AHL-ECHL deal last fall. His 18 games played this season are the most he’s had in one AHL campaign.
“In the ECHL, I was the go-to guy, knew I’d be getting big minutes,” Jackson said. “This has been a different kind of season for me. It’s the most competitive situation I’ve been in, more of a challenge, and I’m learning a lot here.
“We have a good group of guys on our blueline back there. Everyone understands their roles, and we know at times like this, when we’re missing guys, we need to be smarter, careful, and get the puck to our forwards.”
Jackson grew up in Marquette, Mich., with Canada just across Lake Superior. His two older brothers played hockey in high school, and he followed their path into the game, moving on to a four-year career at Northern Michigan University.
He’s come a long way to gain a foothold in the AHL.
“My goal is to play in the NHL,” Jackson said. “Whether I make it or not, I’ll know I did everything I had to do.”
By Dave Eminian