Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jamie Schaafsma - Player Profile

While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. Here is the player profile with Jamie Schaafsma originally published January 4, 2013.

Jamie Schaafsma #22
Birthdate: February 11, 1983
Birthplace: Chatham, ONT.
Hometown: Blenheim, ONT.
6' 2" 185 lbs.

When you look at Jamie Schaafsma's hockey resume it reads like a world traveler. His first stop as a professional hockey player was in Geleen, The Netherlands. Over the next eight years he played for teams in Amsterdam, Canazei Italy, Bremerhaven Germany, Bolzano Itlay, & Val Gardena Italy. During this time he also played in four World Hockey Champanionships for The Netherlands national team which took him to China, Austria, Estonia & Poland.

Not bad for a farm boy from the small agricultural town of Blenheim, Ontario, population 4563. Jamie's dad, Stuart, moved to Canada from Holland when he was a youngster and for many years ran a dairy cow operation. Stuart and his wife, Florence have five children. Jamie is the youngest of four boys.  His three older brothers, Rob is 12 years older, Rich 10 years older, and Stu is 5 years older, all played hockey. His sister, Jeanette is one year younger.

When you have three older brothers who all play hockey it is obvious you are going to be spending a lot of time at hockey rinks. Jamie's earliest childhood memories of hockey are not of playing hockey but watching his brothers play. His parents were always struck by how much attention he payed to the game even when he was very young. Jamie started skating when he was two years old and his parents still have his first pair of skates. He started playing organized hockey at the age of four and was a scorer right from the beginning. In order to get him better competition his parents eventually had Jamie play for teams in Chatham, which was a much bigger town (45,000) a short distance from Blenheim.

Jamie's first venture into junior hockey was in Junior C with his home town Blenheim Blades. He then went to Junior B in Orangeville, Ontario. Coincidentally, a  team that Darryl Bootland had played for a few years earlier. It was also his first venture away from home as he was billeted in Orangeville. After spending a little over a year in Orangeville Jamie decided to play closer to home. In 2002-2003 he played for the Petrolia Jets and they won their league playoff. In 2003-2004 he played for the Tecumseh Chiefs where he had 68 points in 53 games. Jamie's goal during these years of playing Junior hockey was to earn a college scholarship. Unfortunately, he wasn't offered any scholarships. One of his regrets in looking back is not being more proactive in contacting colleges about playing hockey. He waited for colleges to contact him rather than reaching out to them.

The one thing that never waivered with Jamie from the time he remembers watching his older brothers play hockey until he was at the end of his Junior career was his absolute passion for hockey. It is all he ever wanted to do. It was pretty much the single focus in his life. His brothers still give him a hard time about being the spoiled little brother that always got out of chores on the farm because of hockey.

Jamie went out of his way to emphasize to me the sacrifices his parents made for him to play hockey. These sacrifices were in both time and money. His parents weren't the drop him off at the rink types. They both came to his games all of the time. They don't travel a lot anymore but Jamie hopes they get to Allen at least once this season.

In 2004 Jamie was contacted by a team in the Netherlands about playing hockey for the Geleen Smoke Eaters who play in the top professional division in the country. Because his dad was born in Holland, Jamie had some advantages including the possibility of becoming a Dutch citizen. He obtained his passport and headed off to play professional hockey in Europe. As he told me, "The money wasn't much, but I was able to continue doing what I love, play hockey." Jamie had two good years with Geleen scoring 79 points in 62 games.

During the summers Jamie would come home and work. For a couple of summers he worked at the Navistar Plant in Chatham where they make International trucks. As he tells the story he noticed this great looking young lady but didn't really get to know her during one summer but during the next summer they worked closer together at the plant and he eventually asked her out and they began dating. The young lady, Nicole Vanuden, would eventually become Mrs. Schaafsma. At the end of the summer (2006) Jamie asked Nicole to come to Europe with him as he had signed to play with the Amsterdam Tigers. They didn't want to have a long distance relationship so off to Europe they went. Nicole's parents were a little reluctant at first but supported the young couple in the end.  It was a great year being in Europe together. By this time Jamie had become a citizen of the Netherlands and played in his first International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship (2007) in Qiqihar, China. As with many cities in China the names aren't familiar but they are big cities. Qiqihar has a population of over 5 million.

In addition to the thrill of playing for the national team one of the other benefits of playing in the World Championships is the exposure to hockey teams and scouts from all over the world. Jamie had a good tournament in China and ended up signing with  Fassa HC of the top Italian League for the 2007-2008 season. After the summer back at home Nicole & Jamie headed off to Canazei, Italy for the hockey season. After another great season (22 goals & 25 assists in 38 games) as well as a good showing at the 2008 World Championship which was held in Innsbruck, Austria, Jamie was interested in continuing to try and move up to higher competition in is hockey career.

For the 2008-2009 Jamie signed with the Fischtown Penquins in the 2nd level German League. After a summer at home Nicole and Jamie's European hockey adventure continued in Bremerhaven, Germany. Things didn't work out in Germany and after 25 games (21 points) Jamie was out of a job. It may have been a blessing in disguise as Jamie was picked up by the Balzano HC of the Italian League. He helped lead Balzano to the Italian League championship scoring 6 goals and 8 assists in the 12 game playoff.

 After winning the Italian Championship Jamie joined the Netherlands national team again and played in the 2009 World Championships which were held in Poland. Even though his team did not do well going 1-4  Jamie received the award for most goals in the tournament (5).

For the 2009-2010 season Jamie & Nicole came home to play hockey. A combination of events happened that led him to sign with the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League. The recession was taking hold in Europe where most hockey money comes from sponsors. It was harder getting contracts and less money was being offered. Jamie was also curious to see how he would do in the North American minor leagues. Nicole and Jamie were living in Windsor so Jamie could commute to Flint and  Nicole could commute to her job as well. It was a great situation as Jamie could play hockey and they could also be around family and friends.

Jamie admits getting used to playing hockey again in North America took some time. Rinks are smaller than in Europe so the pace is slower and there is less room to move. There is a lot more clutching and grabbing. Flint made the playoffs on the last day of the season and proceeded to make it to the finals of the Turner Cup loosing to the perennial powerhouse Ft. Wayne Komets.

Jamie had every intention of signing with Flint for 2010-2011 season as both he and Nicole enjoyed  being back home and Jamie liked playing in Flint. They got married in May of 2010.  However, ownership problems led to the demise of the Flint franchise. Jamie ended up taking a job with the Gardena HC which plays at the second level of the Italian League. Jamie readily admits it was not the best move from a "quality of hockey" perspective but the owner of the team really wanted to win a championship and the monetary package he received for the two year contract was the incentive for him to sign.

Jamie had 155 points in 98 games during his two years with Gardena. The team lost in the finals of the league playoff both years. What will always be the best memory of this time in Italy is Nicole became pregnant both years they were there. Must be all of that wine and great Italian food.  Both children were born back home in Canada. First a little girl named Sawyer, born in July of 2011 and then a little boy named Sutter born last October.

So how did Jamie end up in Allen. It wasn't from any connections with the team as the only person Jamie knew from the Americans is Jason Wallace, the trainer, who was the trainer in Flint when Jamie played there. As it turns out Jamie's agent knew Coach Martinson and it is through that contact that things started to happen.

After talking to coach Martinson and learning of the relationship with the former Stars players Jamie made a decision to play in Allen. As with many of the players I have interviewed, Jamie is driven to win another championship. He has played in four consecutive league finals. He won the Italian first division with Bolzano in 2009, lost the International Hockey League final with the Flint Generals in 2010 and lost two straight finals with Gardena in the Italian second division in 2011 and last year.

Jamie is about to turn 30 and he desperately wants to win another championship. He decided to come to Allen because of the commitment  the entire organization has made to win a championship this year. Jamie & Nicole are enjoying their time in Allen with Sawyer & Sutter. When not at the rink Jamie enjoys playing golf but admitted that he has only played twice since arriving in Texas. With two little ones both under 18 months of age, life away from the rink is centered around them. I did see a very cute picture that Nicole posted on Twitter showing Sawyer pretending to play Xbox with dad so video games are his guilty pleasure at home. Jamie mentioned to me he knew what a great mom Nicole would be as he watched her work at as a nanny when they were in Amsterdam and Italy.

As always I tried to find some quotes from Jamie's prior coaches. Here are a few that caught my eye.

- Jamie is a great offensive threat.
- Every time Jamie gets over the blue line there is a chance he is going to score.
- Jamie can put the puck in the net.
- Jamie has a couple of highlight reel goals this year.
- Jamie plays with a little bit of an edge, which is good.

Here are Jamie's answers to the "get to know you" questions:

Roommate On The Road: Jarret Lukin

Nickname: Shazzy or Shifty

Hockey Hero: Doug Gilmore

Favorite Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio

Favorite Actress: Katherine Heigl

Favorite Type Of Music: Varied -  Rock, Rap, Heavy Metal,

Favorite Group; Guns & Roses (got it from my brothers)

If You Could Have Lunch With Anyone Living: Wayne Gretzky

 Where Is The Most Interesting Place You Have Visited: Amsterdam

If You Could Live In Another Country For Two Years Where Would It Be: Thailand

One Thing People Would Be Surprised To Learn About You: I own a motorcycle

If You Could Be Anything Besides a Pro Athlete What Would It Be: Pilot or Firefighter

Pregame Ritual: Nicole makes me a Strawberry Smoothie

Who is the Funniest Guy on the Team: Brett Skinner

Who Are your Number One Fans: My parents

What Do You Like To Do To Kill Time On The Bus: Watch TV

Favorite Childhood Toy: Miniature Hockey Stick

Favorite Motto: As a kid there was a poster on my wall that said, "I Play To Win"

If You Could Have Someone As a Mentor Who Would It Be: Doug Gilmore or Wendel Clark

Favorite TV Shows: Sons Of Anarchy, Workaholics, The Office & Modern Family

I told Jamie every time a player does an interview for the blog they have a great weekend so let's keep the streak going and get Jamie some points!!!

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