Jack Works was always going to join the men’s hockey team at the University of Denver in Colorado. After all, he committed to the program in December 2019.
He was going to head to the Mile High State following the completion of the current Alberta Junior Hockey League season but those plans have been bumped up a few months.
The 19-year-old Yellowknifer officially joined the Pioneers’ roster on Dec. 23, taking advantage of the new provision put in place for all collegiate athletes in the U.S. which gives them an extra year of eligibility due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It all came about while Works was at home with his family in Calgary.
“I got the call from the team and they wanted to bring me in early,” he said. “They had room for me and with the AJHL season up in the air, I decided to make the move.”
Works was entering his third season with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers and had four goals in three regular-season games with the team before the league shut things down in November once Covid-19 version 2.0 began to run amok in the province.
Works was able to avoid the 14-day quarantine period upon his arrival in Denver thanks to him self-quarantining before flying down.
“They did a few tests when I got there to make sure I was negative and all was good,” he said.
Works hasn’t made an appearance with the Pioneers yet but he has had the chance to take part in a few practices.
When he will get the chance to suit up is still up in the air, he said.
“I got to watch some games (this past weekend) but I have no idea when I’ll get in the line-up,” he said.
There are two things Works has noticed during his short time in Denver, the first being the style of hockey.
“The guys here are bigger and stronger and the pace is fast so that’s been tough to adjust to,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone when I got here but the guys were really good and made it really easy to fit it.”
The second thing? The altitude.
Denver sits more than 5,000 ft. above sea level and the air is rather thin at that height, something Works found out about the hard way.
“It’s not horrible because I expected it but you really feel it,” he said. “You can feel it when you walk around and if you’re doing something high-intensity, that’s when it really hits you.”
Works leaves the Oilers holding two franchise records: most goals in one regular season (43) and most points in a regular season (92). Both of those marks were set last season.
Tyler Deis, Okotoks’ head coach, said in a statement that the team will miss Works immensely on and off the ice.
“His drive, passion to make teammates better, and just the way he could take over a game will be missed in our locker room,” he said. “Hopefully, his attitude will rub off on others and encourage them to also take that next step, like Jack did. We could not be more excited to see him start his college hockey career, even though it is a bit earlier than expected.”
Leaving the team wasn’t easy, said Works, but it was the right time to do so.
“It’s a great team there and I loved being part of it but this was a chance I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “We only played three games and who knows what’s going to happen to the rest of the (AJHL) season so this was the best decision for me to be able to keep playing hockey.”