Jack Harris looks like who he is.
The youngest player on the Yellowstone Quake still attends Cody High School, is still 16 years old, and yet he gets to play junior hockey for a team in his hometown. What a deal.
The reality is Harris was originally slated to just practice with the Quake this season. But the team didn’t sign as many players as it could and the guy who was mostly going to hang around to learn and hone his skills suits up for almost every game.
“He could be the youngest kid in the league,” coach Ryan Theros said. “He wants to get better.”
Getting better is what this is season is about for Harris. He is one of two local players on the squad, joining Meeteetse’s Carter Johnson, who also joined the Quake when he was 16 and still in high school. Johnson saw limited action initially, but is a regular now.
Yellowstone, the first-place team in the North American Tier III junior hockey league’s Frontier Division, is 20-2-1 this season. Harris has appeared in 19 games and has collected two goals and four assists for six points. This is fine production for someone who could still be skating for the Ice Cats and Team Wyoming, the clubs he previously played on.
Harris said he was attracted to hockey as a youngster when his family lived in California and two cousins played the sport. He learned to skate at 5. Location also made him a fan of the National Hockey League’s Mighty Ducks. His allegiance continues.
Blond and boyish looking, in street clothes Harris could pass for an eighth grader, but wearing all of his hockey gear he blends with the older guys and when given the chance can make things happen on the ice against 20 year olds that outweigh him by 30 pounds.
At this age, four years can make an enormous difference in development, so as much fun as Harris has on the ice he is conscious this is another educational forum for him as much as attending sophomore classes at CHS.
“I just wanted to practice,” Harris said of his original intentions. “Since they were short on numbers I got a spot on the team.”
Harris didn’t know he was a Quake keeper until a few games into the season. He talked over the opportunity with his dad Jeff and decided playing up with the Quake would improve his skills more than continuing to play for the Ice Cats.
“I was excited and surprised at the same time,” Harris said.
This is not the same as suddenly being summoned to the Mighty Ducks, but Harris has been a longtime attendee of Quake games, so it is neat to be skating with the club he had only recently paid to watch and to be swapping passes with some of the players he viewed from the stands as recently as last season.
Theros is glad Harris stayed with the Quake and said he has improved tremendously since September when the regular season began.
“He’s a completely different player,” Theros said. “I’ve been very satisfied.”
No one, not Harris, not Theros, not other coaches or team management personnel, expected Harris to be a go-to guy on offense this year. But what has made an impression on Theros is Harris’s work ethic and dedication.
“He’s got that hockey sense,” Theros said. “He’s coming along very well. He’s got a great attitude and he’s working his butt off. The other guys have taken him under their wings.”
Whether Harris received good advice or those attributes come naturally, he has chosen the right path to make a coach remember him.
More goals will come with more ice time and experience, but Harris will remember his first goal in junior hockey. He scored it in the second period of a 13-0 win over Bozeman at Riley Arena on Sept. 22.
Hockey players always collect the puck from their first important goal at a higher level. The Jack Harris inaugural Quake goal souvenir puck now resides in the family’s memorabilia collection.