Former Red Deer Rebel Jackson van de Leest is excited to get back on the ice after he committed to the Dalhousie Tigers for the 2022-23 season but until then is keeping his options open to play professional hockey.
He said he toured a bunch of the schools after finishing the WHL season and said he loved Dalhousie University.
“The package we got from the WHL makes the decision pretty easy to be able to go to school if you can and get that scholarship if you’re not playing pro,” he said. “The city of Halifax when I visited it was phenomenal I loved everything about it. The school is prestigious and the hockey out there in USports is really good and the programs they offered and meeting the guys and coaches it just felt like a place I’d really fit.”
Despite committing to the Tigers, Van de Leest still has professional hockey aspirations next season and hopes to be earning a professional deal either out of camp or shortly after the NHL draft.
“I haven’t heard much as of yet but I think that with what’s going on with COVID-19 and the draft being late I’m hoping that it’ll just be slow in some areas and so I’m still looking forward to hopefully talking to a couple of teams in the near future,” he said. “I’m happy to have Dalhousie as a great backup or full-time plan I’m not sure yet.”
Van de Leest was traded to the Rebels in the 2021-22 season from the Calgary Hitmen and in the remaining 34 games left in the WHL season he scored 10 points.
He explained being traded and having to make the transition to the Rebels was a phenomenal experience.
“I think that the coaching staff and the team and what we were able to accomplish helped develop me into the best player I’ve been in my WHL career. It’s bittersweet to have that be my last year because I wish I could have spent more time as a Rebel but at the same time I was really happy to have had that last half of the year to give it a go with those guys and make the most out of my junior career there,” he said. “Being a Rebel it meant a lot to me and what it means to play hard.. and just be able to play my game but also really thrive in that scenario with that great group of guys.”
The Kelowna product played at the Yale Hockey Academy U15 Prep in the 2015-16 season. Before playing for the Calgary Hitmen, he played for the Okanagan Hockey Academy White U18 and the Penticton Vees the following season.
Van de Leest said he’s a very competitive person by nature and without a way to channel that by playing hockey he would be struggling.
“Having that outlet has been a way for me to channel that competitive drive and action to something and make the most of it. I mean I’m certain that all of the most meaningful relationships in my life have all come from hockey and it’s kind of one of those things where you leave the game and you give up some of those relationships and you give up the ability to make more as you progress through it and that’s not something I’m looking forward to doing anytime soon. Playing hockey has been a part of me since I was five years old and it’s something I want to do until hopefully the day I can’t anymore.”