It’s probably an odd start for a hockey career, but top prospect Tomas Jurco fell in love with the game when his sister Petra went in for a practice but was turned away. “Coach said the little guy can come next day for practice,” says Tomas, about Petra being turned away. In the town of Kosice, Slovakia, girls’ hockey hadn’t taken off in the mid-90s. “I like it, so I stayed with hockey.”
Kosice is the second-largest city in Slovakia and has the local team, HC Kosice, has won the Slovakian title three years running. Jurco brags to the Russian reporter in the room that they recently beat CSKA Moscow. “There have not been a lot of good hockey players [born in Kosice] lately,” Jurco says about his hometown. “I’m hoping to change that.”
Jurco is listed at 6’2″. Combining his size with his well-developed facial hair and European appearance, it would be hard to mistake him for anything other than a junior hockey player in Saint John. The Sea Dogs start had 31 goals in 60 games with the Memorial Cup Champion Saint John team in the Quebec Major Junior League this past season. He’s a veritable showman on the ice, but soft-spoken and humble off the ice, well aware of the hard work required to gain entry into the National Hockey League.
He broke out less for his goal-scoring prowess and more for the variety of highlight videos found on YouTube. You can kill a good number of hours searching through Jurco’s reels for stickhandling magic you won’t find anywhere else.
“The spin-o-rama,” Jurco says with a laugh. “People are kind of recognizing on the streets now.” He made that move twice. Once in a game against Cape Breton, and again at the CHL Prospects game. “I was a little worried,” he said, still joking, about the goalie knowing his move. “It already had 300,000 views. Was on TSN too. I was worried he’d know, he’d poke check, and I’d look like an idiot.”
“I like it when somebody makes a video about me and I watch my goals,” he says, although he never puts his own videos online. He accepts his nicknames ‘Tommy Toedrag’ and ‘YouTube Sensation’ but wants to shake off the stigma. “I don’t want to be a YouTube sensation. I want to be a hockey player sensation.”
The Sea Dogs media guide states that Jurco “prides himself on being a more complete player”. While players with the skill set of Tomas typically develop a stigma as being in it more for their individual selves, he is well-liked and draws rave reviews for his work ethic, as well as his ability to fit into the North American game as an import. Like many hockey players, Jurco has a chip on his shoulder, in this instance because his family spent a lot of time and money to help him develop, and he plays for all the coaches and friends who saw him leave to Saint John as a young teenager. “I hope I give back the time and money my family spent on me,” Jurco says.