“I really liked him and the way he could do all these tricks,” Jurco said. “I started watching all these videos, and he made a big impact on me. I started making up my own tricks and kept doing it for a couple of years.” By now, Jurco was playing with guys who were three or four years older. His stickhandling skills were improving and the tricks he could do with the puck were becoming increasingly impressive. One day, a friend came with his video camera, and they spent an hour recording the budding star in action. The video was uploaded onto a Slovakian website and, much to Jurco’s chagrin, eventually found its way onto YouTube. “I never meant to put myself on YouTube,” he said. “I was pretty surprised when it became so popular, but it got to be embarrassing because guys thought I had put myself out there, and that’s not me.” He started feeling like he had become a sideshow. When someone called him a clown, he knew the tricks had to stop. “I said, ‘That’s enough. I’m not in the circus. I’m a hockey
player.’ Things got to be too much about YouTube and not enough about hockey. I’m not like those basketball players from the Harlem Globetrotters.” Playing in a hockey-mad country like Canada would only heighten the hullabaloo. Coming to North America was something that Jurco had been thinking about for a long time. “It wasn’t a hard decision for me; it was probably harder on my parents,” he said. The adjustment, however, wasn’t so easy. Communication was difficult at best – he learned English in school, but it was the British form and people spoke too fast – and he missed his mother’s cooking. On the ice, Jurco adapted quickly. After a slow start, he finished his first year in Saint John with 26 goals. He tallied 31 goals in 60 games during his second season and 30 goals in 48 games in his third. His team won the QMJHL’s President Cup in back-to-back seasons while appearing in the league finals for three consecutive years. After the Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup in 2011 as the top junior team in Canada, it was
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Grand Rapids GRIFFINS • 2013 Calder Cup Champions