Hockey DayThe Woodcrofts, a unique Hockey Day in Canada family
By Tim Wharnsby
Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014 | 02:30 PMBack to accessibility links
Supporting Story Content
End of Supporting Story ContentBack to accessibility links
Beginning of Story Content
When Jay Woodcroft enters a rink somebody usually will approach and ask about him about his brothers Todd or Craig, his father Frank or one of his four uncles, Paul, Bud, Gerry or Gord.
"Hockey is a very small world," said Jay, the youthful looking 37-year-old assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks. "With us three and my Dad's family, there aren't too many arenas where I don't run into somebody who knows somebody in my family.
"I come [from] a hockey family in a true Canadian sense."
Actually, the Woodcrofts are a hockey family in a unique sense. How many families have two different Stanley Cup champions, brothers who had lengthy minor pro and European careers, a father who was an accomplished junior goalie, and four hockey-playing uncles, two of whom were Catholic priests and played with the colourful Flying Fathers of Hockey?
Jay goes to Russia every summer with Todd to help out with Pavel Datsyuk's PD13 Prospects camp in his hometown of Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, a 25-hour train ride from Moscow. Datsyuk invited the Woodcrofts six years ago because he wanted some Canadian instruction and passion evident at the camp. Jay and Todd have been a staple every since. Nail Yakupov is a former camp attendee.
A few years ago at the camp, Jay explained a drill to a group through a translator. When he finished Jay attempted, in his limited Russian, to ask a young talent named Philip if he understood the drill.
"He looked me straight in the eye and answered me in perfect English that he understood," Jay recalled. "It turns out that he was born in Russia, lived there until he was nine years old and then emigrated to Canada to pursue his dream of being a hockey player."
The youngster had played minor hockey in the Toronto area and had heard about the Woodcroft brothers of Toronto taking their act to Russia each summer to help Datsyuk.
"It just so happened that he had family in Ekaterinburg and he has been a student ever since," Jay said. "To be that far away, and have a connection to my hometown and to my family and friends was a pretty special example of just how small a world of hockey can be."
Hockey in their blood
Jay's passion for hockey was honed in a family that consumed the game. His dad's two oldest brothers, Paul and Bud, entered the priesthood and found a way to keep their hockey skills sharp with the late Father Les Costello and the Flying Fathers.
Costello was a Stanley Cup champion with the 1948 Toronto Maple Leafs before he was ordained as a priest in 1957.
The Flying Fathers used to play a series of hockey games in Canadian communities against local junior teams or NHL alumni squads each winter to raise money for various charities. Every once in awhile, Costello and Co. would need a goalie, and Frank Woodcroft would fill in.
Craig Woodcroft, a forward, was a seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1988. After his career at Colgate University and four different stints with the Canadian national team, Craig played for 17 different teams in 13 seasons in North America, Finland, Germany, Italy and Sweden. He is the founder of Northern Edge, a renowned hockey instruction company that he runs out of Minnesota.
Todd, who played at McGill University and is scouting director of the Calgary Flames, has held various coaching and scouting positions in the NHL for more than a decade. He was on Mike Babcock's Canadian coaching staff for the 2004 gold-medal winning world championship team. Todd would later win a Stanley Cup ring as a member of the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings scouting staff.
It was Todd who told Babcock that his younger brother Jay, a forward who attended the University of Alabama-Huntsville, was about to conclude his playing days in Germany with Stuttgart in 2005 and he was interested in a career in coaching. Jay spoke with Babcock and a few months later, when Babcock joined the Detroit Red Wings, Jay joined his coaching staff. When Todd McLellan left the Red Wings to become an assistant coach, Jay joined the Sharks.
Besides winning a Stanley Cup with the 2007-08 Red Wings, Jay has undergone quite a hockey education with mentors like Babcock, Scotty Bowman, former Detroit assistants Paul MacLean and McLellan as well as current Sharks assistants Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson.
"I tell people I went to Red Wings University and now I'm taking my masters at San Jose Sharks State," Jay said.
Jay, no doubt, has the pedigree to one day become a head coach in the NHL, and, of course, provide the Woodcroft family another chapter to its unique hockey story.
End of Story ContentBack to accessibility links
Story Social Media
End of Story Social Media
Latest NHL Stories
- NHL free agency and trade tracker
- Get up to speed on the latest important signings and trades from the NHL's off-season. more »
- Maple Leafs sign Peter Holland, Frankie Corrado to 1-year deals
- The Toronto Maple Leafs avoided arbitration with Peter Holland and Frankie Corrado, signing each to one-year contracts on Monday. more »
- Don Cherry, Ron MacLean see names unveiled on Canada's Walk of Fame
- Two longstanding fixtures on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada were in downtown Toronto on Monday for the unveiling of their names on Canada's Walk of Fame. more »
- Sabres' Evander Kane charged with harassment at bar
- Buffalo police say Sabres forward Evander Kane has been charged with four counts of non-criminal harassment and one count of misdemeanor trespass after an incident at a city bar last month. more »
Top Sports Stories
- Full Olympic ban on Russia never had a chance
- In the wake of the latest investigation into widespread, state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes, many figured the IOC had a slam-dunk decision on its hands. But banning an entire country from the Olympics would have been easier said that done. more »
- Team Canada sending 313 athletes to Rio Olympics
- The Canadian Olympic Committee has announced Canada's full 313-athlete team for the Rio Olympics. The large Canadian contingent is made up of 187 women and 126 men, ranging in age from 16 to 56. more »
- 2-time Olympic archer Crispin Duenas on perfection
- A lifelong perfectionist, Canadian archer Crispin Duenas will shoot for a podium finish in Rio, his third Summer Olympics. CBCSports.ca talked to Duenas about learning to be the best he could be at a young age and the misconceptions about archery. more »
- Blue Jays acquire Melvin Upton from Padres
- The Toronto Blue Jays have acquired veteran outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from the San Diedo Padres in exchange for a pitching prospect. more »
Send Your Feedback
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?