Jacob Sweeney: Nothing is Impossible

Jacob Sweeney: Nothing is Impossible

LiQ_Mag_Mar2013_CoverThis article first appeared in the March 2013 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.
Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is currently published at least 3 times per year.
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Jacob Sweeney #4 – Nothing is Impossible

Article by Jason Enlow
Photos by Daniel St-Louis and Ed Sweeney

“It’s a pity youth is wasted on the young.” Those are the words of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. He never had the opportunity to meet 17-year old Jacob Sweeney from Quebec City. Sweeney plays defense for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He’s 6’05”, weighs 213 lbs and shoots left. Christian Deblois, former Quebec Regional Scout for the Moncton Wildcats, remembers seeing Sweeney on the ice. “He was 15 and playing for the Cyclones de Québec. You could tell he was smart on the ice, he had good vision and he understood the game.” Deblois goes on, “Jacob was a great asset for the Wildcats. Getting him from the Victoriaville Tigres was a steal.”

SweeneyJacob_201213With this year being his draft year, the NHL might be hoping to do some of their own stealing.

“With his size and abilities he will have some teams approaching him.”  So says Ed Sweeney, Jacob’s father. “He has already interviewed with one NHL team and sent game film off to three others.”  Deblois agrees that NHL scouts are looking at him, “He’s a good defenseman, very mobile and he moves the puck well.” It’s something he started learning at a young age. “When I was 3 or 4 years old my dad made a rink in the backyard,” says Sweeney. “The whole family would be out there skating every night and it became a passion of mine.” Sweeney Sr. knew early that Jacob had the skills “Jacob is a smart kid and understands complex team systems pretty well.”

Sweeney’s future is looking pretty good, but it wasn’t always easy. “I was so bad in French that I had to have courses with private teachers. I did easier stuff than the other kids. It was really in high school that I started learning French. I got made fun of whenever I played hockey on a team for not speaking French.” Sweeney said that he chose to ignore the taunting. “Half of the time they were saying stuff to me and I didn’t understand it anyway.” Sweeney didn’t give up and his elementary French teacher remembers, “He spoke French in class just like a hockey player. He was fun to tease about it, easy going.”

Jacob-Sweeney-HockeyThat easy going, hard working attitude has paid off.  Coming out of Quebec High School bilingual has helped Sweeney in Moncton.  Sweeney Sr. explains, “He had to enrol in grade 12 and he chose the French high school, École L’Odyssée. They gave him more credits for his courses from Quebec which meant his school year would be easier while playing junior hockey. The level of French he had coming out of the English system in Quebec provided him with the tools to succeed in his second language.” Sweeney Jr. takes being bilingual seriously. “When you go outside of Quebec, English is the universal language. Some people in Quebec are trying to fight against speaking English but they don’t realize how much of an advantage it is to speak two languages.” Deblois agrees, especially since more than half of the Wildcats come from Quebec. “It helps him fit right in. His leadership and ability to speak both English and French makes him the perfect in-between person.”

New Brunswick seems to be where it’s at for Sweeney, at least for the time being, but that doesn’t mean that it’s fun being away. “I miss everything about home; my friends, my girlfriend and my family. I don’t get to see them that often. It’s tough.” Ed Sweeney agrees, “It has been tough because of all the 6 children he is the first to fly the coop.  With Skype, Facebook and texting it pretty well keeps us connected.  One great thing is that he has a wonderful host family and they have been hosting players for 15 years.” Not surprisingly, Sweeney Jr. sees a positive side. “Being away from home and not knowing a lot of people kind of makes you concentrate more on your goal.”

Jacob-Sweeney-BasketballSo what keeps Sweeney motivated? “The pressure of trying to make it to the next level, the NHL, and that’s what pushes me to keep going and work hard because that dream is very much alive.” That, and keeping in shape. During the hockey season, Sweeney keeps fit by practicing every day, playing regular games and working out a couple of times a week. During the summer, he’s at the gym 6 days out of 7. He also has to watch what he eats. Sweeney Sr. explains, “Jacob had to transition from eating normally to eating like a high performance athlete with the 4 basic food groups.   This is something that is constantly being reinforced by his personal trainer in the offseason as well as the team physiotherapist.” Deblois adds, “Hockey players can lose 2-7 lbs after a game. It’s important to eat right and rehydrate.” Sweeney Jr. tells it like it is, “You’ve got to eat well in order to maintain your shape. There are pretty high standards when you play hockey.”

High standards. Jacob’s got them. One of Sweeney’s former teachers from Ste-Foy Elementary summed it up well. “He was a team player with a first class attitude and a great sense of sportsmanship.” Now that he’s finished high school he plans on taking university courses online and next semester he’s set his sights on attending the University of Moncton. As he says, “I still have the dream I had of making the NHL. If it doesn’t pan out I have a couple of other career options, personal trainer, lawyer or maybe a teacher, but I’m really not sure yet.” Maybe #4 doesn’t have all the answers, but he does have some advice.

“Follow your dreams. Even though you think your dream might be impossible, you just never know.”

About Author

Jason Enlow

Jason Enlow is a Special Education Technician at an English elementary school. He was born in Montreal, Quebec and grew up in Burlington, Ontario. Jason studied Radio and Television at Ryerson University in Toronto. His previous employers include CityTV, CBC, The Weather Network, and Global Television. He’s worked as a DJ, camera operator, musician, teacher, translator and video game content designer. Jason moved to Quebec City in 1997 where he still lives today with his wife and three sons.

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