Although they spent last winter more than 600 miles apart, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation brothers Jackson and Jeremiah Jacques helped each other succeed.
Playing on the blueline, Jackson was a key cog on a Dryden (Ont.) Ice Dogs team that posted the third best record in the 2021-2022 Superior International Junior Hockey League regular season. The squad made it to the league semifinals. Meanwhile Jeremiah, a forward, helped the Brandon U18 AAA Wheat Kings to the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League finals. The Wheat Kings had the league’s best record in the regular season.
“We’ve helped each so much in regards to hockey. We do everything together from training each other to pushing each other to be better, it’s always competitive between us. I think that’s a good thing because we always want to make each other better. I would definitely say we wouldn’t be where we are today without each other,” said Jackson, whose siblings also include James Daniels and A.J. Ellison.
The Jacques brothers both got their start in hockey in Oak Lake before going on to play in Brandon. They are the sons of Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone and the late Albert Jacques.
“Our parents are the reason where we are today,” Jeremiah said. “They sacrificed a lot to get us here and I will never forget that.”
Albert Jacques passed away in March of 2021. When discussing Jeremiah, U18 AAA Wheat Kings head coach Curtis Brolund said:
“We couldn’t be more proud in that young man and his brother dealing with the passing of their father in the middle of COVID for becoming great young men and hockey players.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic limited Jackson to only four games with the Ice Dogs in 2020-2021, he flourished with the team last winter. He was an assistant captain and shared the squad’s Defenceman of the Year award with teammate Max Rath.
“Dryden is a very good fit for me,” the 20-year-old Jackson said. “I developed well throughout the year. There’s so much to enjoy and so many good things to say about Dryden. I was pleased with my season. I enjoyed it very much excited to get back to it.”
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder topped the Ice Dogs in blue line scoring. He had three goals and 19 assists in 43 games. Dryden head coach Kurt Walsten praised Jackson for his skating and ability to play on the powerplay and kill penalties. He emphasized the intangibles Jackson brings to the team.
“What makes JJ effective for us is he competes hard. … He always works hard. He is a good teammate. He has fun in practice, but he still works hard in practice. That’s how you get better,” Walsten said.
In the playoffs, Jackson stepped up his game as he tried to lift the Ice Dogs to the finals. He averaged almost a point a game – 0.88 with a goal and seven assists in nine contests.
“He was getting rewarded because if you play good defence and you battle hard, the hockey gods help you out,” Walsten said.
Jackson enjoyed playing for Dryden’s enthusiastic fans. The Ice Dogs led the league in attendance, according to hoceydb.com.
“The fans in Dryden are amazing, such a good fan base makes such a difference for us,” Jackson said. “I was very happy to meet new fans and be a good role model for the kids that look up to us.”
Jeremiah described his winter with the U18 AAA Wheat Kings as “a season to remember.”
“I had a lot of fun,” he said. “Just going to the rink every day and being around guys that only wanted one thing and that was to win. My favourite thing was how close we all were on and off the ice.”
The 6-foot, 200-pound forward had four goals and nine points in 32 games last season.
“Jer was an integral part of our team’s success this season,” Brolund said. “A big body with high end skill, he played his role perfectly being very physically hard to play against with the ability to score and beat guys with his hands. Jer was a first to the rink, last off the ice guy and always wanting to work and get better himself while doing everything he could to help his team.”
The head coach said, “Jeremiah had a fantastic season for us this year, and one of my favourite players in my coaching career.” Jeremiah played for the U18 AAA Wheat Kings as a 15-year-old. The next season, Brolund said the difficult decision was made to release him. Jeremiah played the COVID-19 shortened season at the U17 AAA level and earned his spot back at the U18 AAA level for 2021-2022.
“We challenged him with some areas to improve on and some maturity needed and instead of sulking and giving up he put a lot of effort into himself and grew as a player and person,” Brolund said.
This spring Jeremiah was pleased to represent his province at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. The event was held in Memberou, N.S.
“The tournament was unreal. I had a lot of fun,” Jeremiah said. “It was definitely a time to remember, and I have memories that will last a lifetime.”
In the fall, Jeremiah hopes to play in the junior ranks. He is keeping his options open but plans to try out for the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.