“We have pictures of all that, the MVP trophy being held up by this little guy,” Darren said. “The rest is history.”
The Boston Ice Men scouted the Brick event and invited Eberle to play for them. Summer tournaments turned into family vacations to Detroit, Toronto, Montreal and Boston the next two years.
By the time Eberle was 14, the family had moved to Calgary, Alberta, but Eberle moved back to Saskatchewan to attend Notre Dame boarding school, a famed private hockey institution that's produced numerous NHL players.
“It taught him about being on his own at a young age,” said his mother, Lisa. “He had three roommates, but he had to grow up a little faster. They can get a little homesick. But it was good for him.”
Size isn't everything
Despite Jordan's success during his formative years, his father Darren was unsure whether his undersized son was ready physically when the Pats selected him in the junior draft. After all, Jordan would be going against some defensemen who were a foot taller and weighed 70 more pounds.
“You hoped he would continue to develop and have fun with it,” Darren said. “It wasn't like all along I said, ‘Oh, my kid is going to someday be in the NHL.' He never was very big. But you could tell he had a special talent from Day 1.
“It was at Regina when he started to show he could play in a big man's game and carry his skills to that level.”
An NHL All-Star last season, Jordan Eberle has developed into one of Team Canada's top players in international competition. He's led the Oilers in scoring his first two seasons. Last summer, he signed a six-year $40 million extension.
It all started with a four-year career in his hometown. His entire family attended last week's jersey retirement ceremony. In his speech, Jordan thanked his grandparents, Al and Lynn, who he lived with those four years playing for the Pats.
“Normally, the way it works is you don't get your jersey retired until you're a lot older,” Eberle said. “If we do this 20 years down the road, maybe my grandparents aren't still with us. It was really special for them to be there to see it.”
Regina is the oldest major-junior Canadian franchise. Eberle became the ninth Pats player to have his jersey retired.
“All of us, me, my wife and all our kids, were born and raised there in Regina,” Darren said. “I saw a lot of the previous jerseys go up. It's always a special night. Obviously to have your own son's jersey go up, and to have all your family there, was an awesome feeling.”
Quite a journey for a player scouts felt was too small.
“I never was touted as an NHL player because of my size,” Jordan Eberle said. “As the years went on I showed I could play at every level and gained more confidence. Those four years in Regina were pretty incredible. It helped get me where I am today.”