Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Departing Heroes – Volume 1

This is posted on the Vipers website:

Departing Heroes – Volume 1 – By Don Klepp


May 24, 2019 

Vernon, BC:   Leadership is a prominent word when it comes to any form of team sport or activity.  In the Vernon Vipers case this is an opportunity to reflect on the 20 year old leaders of this past season.  These articles are written by a long time member of the organization Don Klepp.  Volume 1 features Vipers captain Jagger Williamson and Jesse Lansdell.

Jaggers All Grown Up

Three weeks shy of his sixteenth birthday when he made the Vipers, Jagger Williamson was 5’7″ and less than 150 pounds. He says, “I was a little guy playing against all those monsters, trying to survive and contribute where I could.”

He’s come a long way in his five-year Viper career, tying Garth Gartner for most regular season games played (233) and assuming a prominent  role as first line centre and the Viper captain. Looking back on those five years that “have passed in a flash,” he says “It’s been a dream come true. Coming from Lumby, I was crazy about the Vipers and of course I wanted to play for them. I was one of those kids with a snow cone, screaming through the glass. Now they’re screaming for me. Amazing!”

His playing style has evolved as he has gained strength and experience. “As a 20-year-old, 40 pounds heavier and influenced by my wild man buddy, Riley Brandt, I got to really enjoy the physical side of the game. Now I enjoy going in the corners and hitting people.”

Playing hard on every shift, Jagger has been very durable until his final year of Junior. He would have eclipsed all Viper service records if he had played a full season in 2018-19, but he suffered a string of bad luck. First, he missed several September games with a painful bout of shingles. Then a knee injury laid him low. He had just recovered from that setback when he broke his thumb. So, he appeared in just 31 of the 58 regular season games. He needed just four more games to match Rob Short’s record of 293 BCHL regular season and playoff games.

Jagger’s return to health coincided with the team’s late season resurgence and strong playoff run. He’s proud of how the team rebounded from a slow start. “It was a crazy year with all the injuries, suspensions, and players leaving for the WHL. But we stuck together and had a common goal. We played for each other and the coaches and the fans, and we finally got healthy and made it to the league final!”

Jagger’s leadership role and emergence as a strong two-way player has prepared him for college hockey. As he leaves for the next stage of his career, he acknowledges the “amazing Viper fans, the best fans in Jr. “A” hockey. I was a Viper fan, so I get where they’re coming from and I’ve really enjoyed meeting them out in the community.”

Jesse Adjusts

A successful life involves a series of adjustments. Jesse Lansdell, who played 127 of his 183 BCHL games with the Vipers, knows all about adjusting to different circumstances.

When he was traded from Chilliwack to Vernon early in the 2016-17 season, he not only had to adjust to a new city and live much farther away from his Langley home; he had to adjust to the more defensive style of hockey required by Mark Ferner. His production slipped, from 44 points in 55 games game in his rookie campaign in Chilliwack to just12 points in 44 games the next season with Vernon.

But he adjusted to the new system and a more pronounced role his next two seasons with the Vipers. Playing alongside Jagger Willamson, Jesse contributed 79 points in 83 games the last two seasons. He also chipped in with 32 points in 31 playoff games in 2018 and 2019.

Jesse would have provided more offence in his 20-year-old season, but he was suspended a total of 28 games by the league for being too physical. Jesse talks about how he had to adjust to the league’s crackdown on heavy body checking: “It’s pretty clear that the BCHL is trying to change the way the game is played. Sure, head shots and checking from behind should be punished; we have to cut down on blows that cause concussions. But I believe the league was targeting players who still play a physical style of hockey.”

He continues, “So I had to adjust. I didn’t want to hurt my team by getting suspended again, so I learned to pick and choose when I could use the body to separate a player from the puck. Playing physical is my style; that’s one of the ways I can contribute. But I figured out which hits to administer and which hits might give the league an excuse to suspend me again.”

He did play very physically in the Vipers’ strong playoff run, also supplying 19 points in 21 games. Together with linemates Jagger Williamson and Logan Cash, he was a force on the forecheck, a relentless back checker, and an accomplished stick checker as well. He was assessed 36 penalty minutes, but no majors, nothing that would warrant suspension.

Now as he prepares for the life of a student athlete at Notre Dame University in South Bend, he will need to adjust again. “It’s been nice being out of school for three years, free to focus on hockey and working out and being with my buddies, but now it’s time to really work at school and at a new level of hockey.”

The first step in the process will be a six-week academic bridge program at Notre Dame from mid-June to the end of July. “This next step will be a big adjustment,” he says, “but I’m looking forward to it.”


Anonymous said...

Too great hockey players. Jesse and Jagger will be missed by us fans. As a fan of the both of you I will miss you. Good Luck, in your future, I wish the both of you only the best.

vipersdiehardfan said...

What more could you say about Jagger Williamson! Jags was a true captain and leader of this Vipers team the past few seasons. He's only the third Vernon Viper to be captain in back to back seasons other then former Captains Jason Williamson (2000-2002) and Chris Crowell (2007-2009). Being a local kid, Jagger knew the history of the Vernon franchise and junior hockey in Vernon. Him and former longtime owner Ducan Wray formed a strong bond and were almost had a father/son relationship. I think it was Jagger who took the death of Duncan the hardest and tried his best to bring the Vipers another Royal Bank Cup in memory for Duncan. Jagger played not only with a huge heart but courage, blocking shots, playing hurt/injured, did whatever it took to get on the ice and see his next shift. Jagger will be remembered for tying former Vernon Lakers/Vipers forward Garth Gartner's franchise record for most regular season games played. You don't see many kids stick around and play Junior hockey for one team for too long, but Jagger somehow managed to play for his hometown Vipers for five years. One of the last kids off the ice, signing autographs for young kids/fans, talking/meeting up with fans and kids after games and going out in the community will always be remembered. Should the Vipers retire Williamson's jersey #11?

I have talked to many Viper fans over the years who thought Jesse Lansdell should have been traded after all of his suspensions and undisciplined penalties. Love him or hate him, I always enjoyed watching Jesse and his hard work attitude. His physical play and timely goals. Jesse was a leader on the Vipers on and off the ice. Sure he took some dumb/undisciplined penalties, costing him a few suspensions along the way, but one of the hardest working kids game in and game out. I was always a fan of Mr. Lansdell and thought he brought his A game to the Vipers and alot to the table and to the Vipers lineup.

These two veteran Vipers will be missed and hard to replace. Wishing both of them the best in their future hockey careers.