When Jayson Argue reflects back on his time with the Nanaimo Clippers, a sense of excitement still enters his voice.
The Swan River, Manitoba product spent two seasons with the orange and black from 2012-14 after lighting it up with the Swan Valley Stampeders of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
In an exclusive interview with the BCHL Network, Argue stated he could sense a change of scenery was on the horizon after securing the Steve “Boomer” Hawrysh most valuable player award during the 2011-12 campaign with the Stampeders as well as the league’s top goalie.
“My general manager in Swan River was a really good family friend of ours and I had played two years there. (I was) coming off MVP of the league and I kind of wanted to get a better opportunity to get a scholarship to the States.”
“We kind of laid out some options and he came to me with a list of teams. I remember we were sitting on the deck in the summer and picked a team from a list we compiled and kind of made it happen. I owe a lot to him and (Nanaimo) coach (Mike) Vandekamp for bringing me to the Island,”
Argue stated the trade had more to do with recognition than what was happening on the ice with the Stampeders.
“Back then it was pretty tough for scouts to come out here (to Manitoba), I know if they had to choose between flying to Winnipeg and driving for five hours or Vancouver, or the Island, I think that is a pretty easy choice for them.”
“When you play for two years, win MVP of the MJHL, and don’t get anything (in terms of NCAA attention), I kind of asked for a different route and it ended up working for both sides.”
Argue then packed up his car and made the long drive from Manitoba to Nanaimo and instantly fell in love with the scenery.
“Getting there from Swan River was quite a difference, just the whole city and the area was quite a shock for me. Once I got there, the hockey was unbelievable and Mike Vandekamp was unbelievable to me. It was a bit of a learning curve in my first year, but it ended up working out.”
“I had never really been out that way before, it was a bit of an eye-opener, but I loved my time on the Island riding the ferries and getting to explore that coastline. It’s a pretty next to none experience. Honestly, it felt a lot like home, everyone was really friendly and open to helping in any way they could and I thought Nanaimo was the perfect size between a town and not too big of a city.”
“Driving around with mountains in the background with the ocean nearby was something I enjoyed,” added Argue.
Hosting the Western Canada Cup
Argue was immediately thrown into a pressure cooker situation with the Clippers as the BCHL club hosted the first-ever Western Canada Cup in 2013 – a tournament that consisted of the host team along with the league champions from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The top two seeds moved on to the RBC Cup.
“It was definitely a roller coaster of a year. I remember we started off around .500 but then we kind of pulled it together towards the middle of the year where a lot of trades happened and we got a lot of new bodies. Then the playoffs came and we were up against Alberni Valley. It was a best of five and we were up two games to none and we ended up getting reverse swept. We have heard of those horror stories and it kind of caught us off guard a little bit.”
“There was about a two-month layover between games and it was kind of an awkward time but we ended up getting a couple of weeks to go home, recharge the batteries, and come back for the Western Canada Cup.”
Once the tournament got underway, the Clippers dropped their opening contest to the Yorkton Terriers by a 4-3 score before rebounding the next time out against the Brooks Bandits, walloping them by a 7-2 margin.
Nanaimo then finished the round-robin portion with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Surrey Eagles along with a 4-1 win against the Steinbach Pistons.
“It was a pretty fun experience but we ended up losing in the semi-finals to the Terriers again. It is something I will always remember and was proud to be a part of it, I guess,” said Argue.
The second time’s the charm
After finishing with a record of 20-17-0 in his first season with the Clippers, Argue found his stride during 2013-14, posting a 2.46 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage in 45 games.
Predictably, Nanaimo fell back in the standings a year after hosting the Western Canada Cup, going 27-28-1-2 to earn a third-place finish in the Island Division.
“That year, we quite a bit of turnover just because we were hosting the year before and had a lot of older guys that left after the year. As a 20-year-old, I had to take that leadership role and I think that is part of the reason me and Vandy grew so much because we had young players like Sheldon Rempel and Devin Brosseau, you could just tell they were going to be special.”
“It was pretty good for me because I got to play pretty much every game. Vandy rode me game after game so it was good for me to play a lot and I felt I played better with the heavier workload. That year got me my scholarship, which was the biggest thing.”
“Actually, at the trade deadline, the team that was hosting the RBC tried to get me. Coach Vandekamp laid out a couple of options for me and decided the best thing was to stay and help us try and make a run at the Island (Division). It’s things like that where I really appreciated Mike as a coach.”
Nanaimo eventually fell in five games during the Island Division semifinals to the Powell River Kings.
Off to Beantown
Once his run with the Clippers ended, Argue headed east and suited up for Bentley University, a short 30-minute drive down I-90 from Boston.
The Swan River native provided an instant impact on the ice for Bentley in his freshman year, going 8-7-4 and posting a 2.00 goals-against-average and a .934 save percentage.
“Bentley was awesome, I was very grateful to get a Division I scholarship and have the schooling and what not paid for. That program is very good, and one of the three best business schools in all of the United States, so it was a pretty easy decision for me to accept the offer – along with the hockey opportunities.”
“It really sets you up well in life because let’s face it, hockey ends at some point so I owe a lot to them. My first year I made the all-rookie team and was getting quite a bit of pro looks to leave early, but that second year I ran into injury problems and had a couple of surgeries on my knee. It kind of snowballed that way, which was unfortunate.”
Argue remembers the long trips to Colorado to play Air Force, a team they had built a solid rivalry with.
“It seems like we would play them hard each and every year when we would see them in the playoffs. They have heavy, hard teams, so it was good going down there and trying to deal with the elevation (in Colorado) was pretty cool.”
However, the top memory for Argue was playing in the Capital One Frozen Fenway Game against the Army Black Knights, a game in which Bentley was victorious.
“A lot of people flew down for that game so we had lots of fans in the stands and it was all pretty surreal getting to do that. To be the home team and use the Red Sox dressing room is something I will remember forever.”
Argue ended his collegiate career with a 24-36-15 record in four seasons at Bentley.
Back to Manitoba
Not long after completing his NCAA journey, the now-27-year-old found himself back in Swan River playing senior hockey for the Axemen.
However, Argue is giving back to the game he loves, as he is currently employed by the Dauphin Kings where he serves as goalie coach.
“A lot of guys stay in Swan River forever so it was kind of a no-brainer to come back and play with them again. With coaching, I love the game so when it came up, it was an easy decision. I love helping out the kids when they are actually listening to what you are saying. They take a lot of pride in getting to that next level, so it’s nice and humbling (to have them) asking questions and looking to you for advice,”
“Everyone is from a small town in Manitoba it seems, so being able to come back is always good and being able to be the goalie coach in Dauphin is just another feather in my cap.”