When Jeremy Rebek left his Sault Ste. Marie home as a 17-year old it was the beginning of what would be three seasons as an overachieving defenseman with the Owen Sound Platers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Then came a long and winding professional hockey career that would eventually lead him to Austria, Northern Ireland and Italy before finally retiring as a player at the age of 37.
A ninth round pick by Owen Sound at the 1995 OHL priority selections draft, Rebek would go on to suit up in 201 games for the Platers and total 27 goals, 113 assists, 140 points as a 5-foot-11, 185 pound defender.
Then came 17 more seasons of next level hockey including time with the Laurentian University Voyageurs in Sudbury and various minor pro outposts with teams such as the Missouri River Otters, Toledo Storm, Kansas City Blades, Mississippi Sea Wolves, Rockford Ice Hogs, Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves before heading off to see more of the world.
It was while Rebek was in Sudbury that he met his future wife, Alexandra Smith, and she would join him on his hockey journey that finally ended overseas when he was still a point-per-game defenseman at the age of 37.
Now a financial consultant in Sault Ste. Marie, the 46-year old Rebek and his wife have three kids and live with Jeremy’s mom, Gail, who is a retired school principal. And Rebek has remained in the game he loves as an assistant coach with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Rebek recently guested with me on the weekly Hockey North Show that I host on radio station Eagle 95.1. And though he is somewhat on the quiet side, Rebek said he can “talk hockey all day and all night, any time, any where.”
Talk he did, relaying the many good times he has had in the game, meeting so many people, playing for so many teams in so many cities and countries and forging relationships that he holds near and dear to him.
He particularly enjoyed his OHL career in Owen Sound and his time through the rugged minor pro outposts. And the chance to play for the national team in Austria, for fellow Sault Ste. Marie product John Parco in Italy and for the Belfast Giants in Northern Ireland are experiences that Rebek said he will “never, ever forget.”
It was in Belfast that he combined scoring 35 points in 42 games as a 36-year old defenseman with getting his masters degree from the University of Ulster.
Rebek noted that it was his mom, Gail, who stressed education to him. And it was because of the Austrian family roots of his dad, Peter, that Rebek was able to get an Austrian passport to play overseas.
He also made note that the brief time he spent playing university hockey in Sudbury allowed him to meet his wife, Alexandra, who is known to family and friends as Ali.
“She is a sweetie from a wonderful family in Sudbury,” Rebek said of his wife. “And we have our own beautiful family … and we got to see the world together through hockey.”
Rebek added that his hockey association continues to run deep, both near and far.
“I have traveled the hockey world … but at the end day, the hockey world is such a small world.”
And he continues to love the game through his association as an assistant coach with the NOJHL Thunderbirds under head coach Cole Jarrett.
“It’s great,” Rebek said of being with the Thunderbirds. “The NOJHL is a really good league and for the Thunderbirds, it gives local kids the opportunity to stay home and play hockey. I love every minute of it. Cole runs a great program.”