Jeffrey “Jeff” Friesen
Jeff Friesen honed his early hockey skills during the frigid winters of Meadow Lake on a homemade rink in his backyard. He was a member of local minor hockey from 1981-91 where Friesen was instrumental in the U15 A Meadow Lake Stampeders winning back-to-back provincial championships in 1989 and 1990.
Friesen left home at age 15 to play U18 AAA for the Saskatoon Contacts for the 1991-92 season. In his first year with the Contacts, Friesen amassed a whopping 37 goals and 51 assists for 88 points in just 35 games. Notably, on Dec. 27, 1991, the 15-year-old was called up by the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he scored two goals in his debut.
The next season, 1992-93, as a full member of the Regina Pats, Friesen’s success continued as he received the Canadian Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year Award. That year, Friesen scored 45 goals – a new Pats’ single-season record for most goals by a 16-year-old which stood for 19 years until Connor Bedard scored 51 goals in the 2021-22 season. The following year, 1993-94, Friesen racked up 51 goals and 118 points, leading to an array of year-end team and league awards.
In June 1994, he was selected in the first round, 11th overall, by the San Jose Sharks in the NHL Entry Draft. He joined the Sharks’ team as an 18-year-old, the youngest player in the NHL that year, and was a solid contributor finding the back of the net 15 times and adding 10 helpers for 25 points in 48 games.
Friesen spent roughly seven seasons with the Sharks between 1994 and 2001 and is ranked one of the top 10 greatest scorers in San Jose’s history, having four consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals with the club. He was dealt to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim midway through the 2000-01 season and then wound up joining the New Jersey Devils. He was a key member of the Devils team that won the Stanley Cup in 2003, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators. In the 2005-06 season, Friesen joined the Washington Capitals and then went back to Anaheim before closing out his 14-season NHL career with the Calgary Flames in the 2006-07 campaign.
In total, Friesen played in 977 NHL games, collecting 236 goals and 549 points. He retired from professional hockey in the 2010-11 season after playing overseas in the German Ice Hockey League.
On the international stage, Friesen wore Canada’s colours proudly on several occasions during his hockey career. In 1993, he played for Team Canada in the U17 national tournament in Japan where the club finished with a bronze medal. In 1994 and 1995, he suited up at the World Junior Hockey Championships where he was a big part of their success winning two gold medals. On five occasions, he was selected to play at the Ice Hockey World Championships where the squad won two gold medals (1997 and 2004) and one silver (1996).