Thursday, 16 June 2016 14:55

Sharp-shooting Williams savours spot in Swift Current lore

Written by  Brad Brown
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Jeremy Williams back in the day. Jeremy Williams back in the day. Prairie Post file

Jeremy Williams' place in Swift Current Broncos history is one that, by his own admission, is getting better with age.

A ninth-round bantam draft pick of the Broncos in the 1999 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, the hamlet of Candiac’s most famous export closed out his junior career with a 52-goal season in 2003-04.
That’s remarkable enough, seeing as no Bronco — neither Cody Eakin, nor Adam Lowry or Jake DeBrusk — has reached 50 in the 12 seasons since.
It was also the season that Williams set a franchise record by scoring in 13 straight games, from Nov. 5-Dec. 3, 2003, another mark that still stands today.
“It was a pretty big milestone and it was ... pretty funny because it was against the Calgary Hitmen, and I believe that Ryan Getzlaf was on the ice at the time,” Williams said in a phone interview from his Hamilton home recently. “Now, I think Getzlaf has moved on to bigger and better things, and I was pretty proud of myself, but I don’t think I really understood how big a deal it was at the time.
“When I look back at when I played, I don’t think I thought anything was really a big deal. It was my job to score goals. It was why I played the game. So when people come up to me and say ‘Wow, you scored 50 goals in the Dub,’ I think now that I’m older I appreciate things a little more, and I’m proud and honoured to be able to say I did the things I did do.”
Truth be told though, they’re accomplishments that almost didn’t even have the chance to happen at all, after a car accident as a teenager left Williams with a fractured C6 vertebrae.
 He debuted with the Broncos in the spring of 2001 but didn’t become a regular in Swift Current until Nov. 23 of that year.
Williams capped the scoring in that game, a 7-3 win over Medicine Hat, and scored five more times before the end of the season, giving the Broncos faithful just the smallest taste of what was to come.
Williams scored 41 goals the next season and 52 the one after that before moving on to a pro career that included nine goals in 31 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a league-high 26 goals with Vasteras in Sweden’s Tier 2 professional league, Allsvenskan, in 2013-14.
“He’s the best pure goal scorer I’ve ever seen in a Swift Current Broncos uniform, other than maybe Joe Sakic,” said Ryan Switzer, Broncos communications director, who was then the team’s colour commentator alongside play-by-play man Jon Keen.
“He had a shot and he could wire it into any corner he wanted from anywhere on the ice. It didn’t matter if the puck was tight in to his ankles and he was 100 feet away, he would score, and he was scoring goals that he had no business scoring.”
For his part, Williams is quick to credit linemates Tyler Redenbach and Davin Heintz for much of his success in that one epic season.
Despite the individual accolades, Williams — freshly retired and living in Hamilton with his wife, actress Ashley Leggat — still believes that his junior career ended with some unfinished business. Most notably, back-to-back first-round playoff losses to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The first of those losses was a four-game sweep that came on the heels of a regular season series in which Swift won seven of eight games.
“I look back at that time when we had such amazing team, and we had (Alex) Leavitt and Ian White, and a bunch of other guys, and we had the most dangerous PP in junior  hockey,” said Williams. “And ... people think that when you underachieve it’s because you don’t care, or you weren’t trying, or you’re scared. And I’ll tell you I’ve never seen a teammate cower intentionally from anything. But it’s still a tough pill to swallow.”
Less ambiguous remains the overall experience of playing hockey in Swift Current, where recruiting and drafting can be a challenge for no other reason than the size of the market.
“I was from a rural town of 32 people, so moving to Swift Current, that was a big city for me,” said Williams. “And I always found throughout my career ... that as a player it’s a real positive thing to be able to grow in a community like that.
“We did a lot of public appearances and you want to be known in the city. You want to create that bond with your supporters and the local businesses. The Calgary Hitmen, just as an example, they have a great organization and program, but percentage-wise they’re kind of a small fish in their city. For us, we were the big fish, and we were appreciated more because of it.”

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