Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Jamie Leach admits he had an edge over many others who aspired to be professional hockey players.
That’s because his father Reggie, a member of Berens River First Nation in Manitoba, was a star player who made it to the National Hockey League and won a Stanley Cup with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975.
The younger Leach would eventually make it to the NHL himself. Jamie was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who captured back-to-back league championships in 1991 and ’92.
And now a book has been written about Jamie Leach’s life story.
The book, titled Journeyman: The Story of NHL Right Winger Jamie Leach, was launched online on Tuesday night. Its target audience is middle grade readers 12 years of age and up.
The book is written by author Anna Rosner, a French teacher at Toronto’s York University.
Rosner is also a director of Books with Wings, a Toronto-based not-for-profit organization, which sends books to Indigenous children living in isolated communities in Canada.
“I wanted to write a story that would resonate with them,” she said.
While contemplating ideas for her first publication for Books With Wings, Rosner said she was seeking a former Indigenous NHLer to write about.
“I liked everything about his story,” she said of Jamie.
The book touches on the younger Leach’s early life to his first NHL goal, including his summers on Lake Winnipeg, his life in the minor leagues and his eventual draft.
Rosner said Jamie Leach’s mother Isabel greatly assisted with the book, helping Rosner piece together the early parts of Jamie’s life.
Jamie said having a famous father who played in the NHL was a huge benefit to him. From a very young age he was a regular at NHL rinks and inside pro dressing rooms.
“It prepared me to become a professional,” he said. “One thing when you’re in junior what they say is once you turn pro it’s a lot different life. They’re not holding your hand anymore. You are kind of on your own.
“I think just experiencing the things I experienced growing up and hanging around the locker room, when I did turn pro there were no surprises. I knew how I was supposed to act. I knew what was my responsibility. That definitely helped me tremendously.”
Looking back at his youth Jamie Leach now realizes just how fortunate he was. Like the fact he often had the opportunity to skate by himself at the Flyers’ home rink.
“How many six, seven and eight-year-olds get to skate on the Philadelphia Spectrum ice on their own?” he said. “It was normal then but now I appreciate it so much.”
Jamie said some of his father’s former teammates have known him since he was about three years old.
“I consider myself lucky now,” he said. “Back then it was the norm. It was the norm to have Bobby Clarke come over to our house. I understand how neat it was and how special it was to grow up in that environment.”
Despite his upbringing, Jamie was unsure of whether he would follow in his father’s footsteps and make it to the world’s premier hockey circuit.
His book includes tales of the uncertainty of his own abilities and the fact he was shocked to be selected in the third round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh.
“I really wasn’t supposed to go in the first three rounds that year,” he said. “But obviously it was great fun that I did.”
The fact he was a relatively high NHL pick convinced Jamie he just might have what it takes to play in the league.
He appeared in a total of 81 NHL contests. Besides being a member of two Stanley Cup winning squads with the Penguins, he also had stints with the Hartford Whalers and Florida Panthers.
During his pro career, which lasted from 1989 through 2001, Jamie Leach also suited up for seven minor pro squads in North America. He finished off his pro career by playing five seasons in England.
Jamie, who is now 51, operates Shoot To Score, a Winnipeg-based company which teaches hockey and life skills.
He often brings in his father to serve as a guest instructor for his camps.
“I’m very proud of Jamie for what he has become and the businessman he is today,” said Reggie.
Shoot To Score has visited about 100 Indigenous communities. A frequent message for those striving to further their hockey careers is that, in most cases, it will be necessary to leave home to do so.
“The one thing we try to instill in them is that we know it’s hard,” Jamie said. “We know when these young people leave their homes we understand how tough it is to leave that comfort zone. One thing we try to instill in them is don’t give it two or three days. Give it a really good try.”
Journeyman: The Story of NHL Right Winger Jamie Leach can be ordered through https://www.greatplains.mb.ca/product/journeyman-nhl-jamie-leach