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Rebels Dwayne Jean Jr. speaks to family tragedy that continues to inspire him

Jean Jr. hopes to continue to grow
Red Deer Rebels forward Dwayne Jean Jr. looks to redirect the puck past the goaltender against the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Peavey Mart Centrium. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

It’s been eight months since Red Deer Rebels forward Dwayne Jean Jr.’s father was a victim of a road rage incident north of Edmonton.

The incident left his father in a coma for nearly four months and caused numerous other injuries some of which he’s still recovering from.

Jean Jr. told The Advocate his father is getting closer to normal every day but still has injuries to overcome.

This included a hip that required surgery and may require a second operation. This has caused him issues with walking and has required crutches and sometimes a wheelchair to get around.

“It’s day by day. I’m just very fortunate he’s still here to be around with us,” Jean Jr. said.

“It was a battle for my whole family for me to be away. If he was up at that time he’d want me to be here.”

His father also broke his pelvis, and his hip and suffered a brain injury. Despite that, his father was released from the hospital in April and has been improving since.

“He’s my role model, I look up to him. He’s lived a life that not many people have,” Jeanr Jr. said. “He made it out of the reserve and he’s the guy that put our family together and made it work for all of us.

“He’s worked his a— off every single day. I look up to his mindset and how much better he wants to get every day even with him recovering. It’s been a long year and he’s battled with it every single day.”

When the incident occurred in January, Jean Jr. was with the Rebels in the middle of the regular season. He took some time away to be with his family but eventually returned to the team.

“It was in the back of my mind but when it became game time I wanted to play for him. I played for my dad every day of the season,” he said.

“That’s all I really looked forward to was putting on my skates and going out there to play for him. Even when he was in his coma I just really looked forward to maybe when he wakes up that he’ll get to watch those games.

“When he did, it was a Facetime after every game. I remember scoring my first goal with him back in the building and it was a feeling I’ve never felt before.”

Jean Jr. lived in Edmonton during his early years and went to eight different schools in eight years. He first lived at his reserve near Fort McMurray for a few years but because of no opportunities to play the game he loved, he moved to Edmonton at 11 years old to live with a billet family.

The 19-year-old from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation was traded to the Rebels at the beginning of the 2022-23 season from the Tri-City Americans after expressing a desire to play closer to home after deaths in the family.

Last season he reached a WHL career-high 14 points in 61 games and added one point in 12 playoff games.

Entering his third season in the WHL, Jean Jr. hopes to continue his growth and will continue to dedicate each game to his father.

“My first two years in the league were really tough. I had five family members pass away in my first year in Tri-City and last year with my dad getting in an accident. To see my dad in the stands this last weekend and put the puck in the net for him is all I want to do this year,” he said.

“I want to make a name for myself and a name for the younger kids growing up on the reserve. I’m just looking forward to a full year with no distractions.”

He put on 20 pounds of muscle this offseason in order to battle for a roster spot in Red Deer. So far, it’s paid off for him as he’s delivered three points in two pre-season games including the overtime winner against the Hitmen at the Siksika Deerfoot Sportsplex in Calgary.

“I think there’s still room for improvement. It’s just two games and it’s preseason but to score in overtime on the reserve it’s all I had on my mind. I want to show these younger kids what it takes to be in this league and to make a name for themselves.”

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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