His hockey playing career ended a dozen years ago at age 34. But now, at 46 years of age and at his playing size and weight of 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Jeremy Stevenson still looks fit and trim enough to be patrolling the left wing.
A first round pick of the Cornwall Royals in 1990 who would finish his Ontario Hockey League career with the Soo Greyhounds, Stevenson defied the odds to play in 228 National Hockey League games after being an 11th round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 1994.
Now working in law enforcement in Sault Ste. Marie, Stevenson also helps out as an assistant coach with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Guesting on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show on local radio station Eagle 95.1, Stevenson reflected on his lengthy playing career that after the OHL, included stops with four NHL teams as well as seven minor league clubs in three different leagues.
“It was quite the ride, that’s for sure,” relayed the friendly, down to earth Stevenson. “I got to experience the thrill of playing in the NHL and I also enjoyed my time through all the different stops in the minor leagues. The friends I made and the experiences I went through are what made playing the game so special.”
When asked if he remembered his first NHL goal, Stevenson flashed a big smile and quickly replied: “I sure do! I was with Anaheim (during the 1997-1998 season) and we were playing Edmonton and it was a give and go with (Ducks superstar) Teemu Selanne and he put the puck right on my stick and I put it past (legendary Oilers goalie) Grant Fuhr. It is a moment I will never forget.”
In all, Stevenson would play in 228 NHL games, playoffs included, and total 43 points from 19 goals, 24 assists while racking up 471 minutes in penalties as a fibrous, physical, fearless forward.
Stevenson said he particularly enjoyed the 2002-2003 NHL season with the Minnesota Wild when he played for the legendary Jacques Lemaire.
“I played for a lot of good coaches in my career but the best one was Mr. Lemaire,” said Stevenson. “He was such a smart coach. He was quiet and didn’t show a lot of emotion but you wanted to play hard for him because he was such a good person and a good coach.
“We had a great run that year and surprised every one by winning two rounds of the playoffs,” added Stevenson, who in that 2002-2003 term for Minnesota, had five goals, six assists, 11 points in 32 regular season matches before adding five assists in 14 playoff games.
His OHL career was also noteworthy, going from being a first round pick by Cornwall from the Elliot Lake midgets in 1990 to being traded to the Soo during the 1993-1994 campaign and scoring 18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points in 48 regular season games while piling up 183 minutes in penalties for coach Ted Nolan’s Greyhounds.
Now, settled in the Soo for more than 10 years and a family man with a wife and two kids, Stevenson enjoys his job in law enforcement, his lifestyle, and helping out his good friend Denny Lambert on the coaching staff of the NOJHL Thunderbirds.
“I love living here … family life is very important to me and having a job that I like and helping out with the Thunderbirds is great,” he noted with a smile.
Meanwhile, Stevenson’s son, Keegan Stevenson, has hockey aspirations of his own.
After playing in the NOJHL for the Thunderbirds as a 16-year old, the younger Stevenson has spent the past three seasons developing as a hard-working winger with the OHL’s Guelph Storm. With a December 31, 2000 birth date, Keegan is slated to play in Guelph as an overage once the delayed 2020-2021 season gets going.
Keegan did get a taste of the pros recently, suiting up for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League for one game before injuring his thumb and returning back home to the Soo to await the hopeful start of this OHL season.
As for Jeremy, he continues to juggle family life, his career, and helping out the NOJHL Thunderbirds as an assistant coach.
“I coached a lot of minor hockey here over the years, including my daughter’s team, and this is now a new experience helping out the Thunderbirds. The NOJHL is a good league and I am enjoying the experience of helping to coach the kids on the Thunderbirds,” summed up the likeable Stevenson.