“Jay North had the potential to be a great hockey player in the NHL. He had great skating ability, as well as great stickhandling ability. He had it all. In fact, I envied him as a player because of his amazing way he played the game. But I just don’t know what happened to him.”
That was what former Hobey Baker Award winner and NHL’er Tom Kurvers had to say about Jay North.
For baby boomers growing up in the early 1960s, the name Jay North was associated with the actor who played the lead role in the television series, “Dennis the Menace.” But for hockey trivia experts, Jay North was the first high school hockey player drafted in NHL Entry Draft history. He was drafted in the third round, the 62nd player taken overall, by the Buffalo Sabres in 1980.
“Jay was an outstanding high school hockey player,” remembered Hall of Famer, Scotty Bowman, who was coach and GM of the Sabres at the time. “He could really control a game on the ice. He had the skills and the talent. He could have made it in the NHL.”
But what ever happened to North the hockey player? Better yet, who is this guy?
North never played in the NHL. He never played pro hockey, except for a handful of games for a team in Los Angeles of the old PSHL. The former center never attended a Sabres training camp. North was born and grew up in Bloomington, MN, playing his high school hockey at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
“Jay was smart in school and did very well academically,” recalled Kurvers, a close friend of North in high school. “He was one of the best players in the State of Minnesota at the time.”
North’s life and travels looks like a road map. From Harvard he went to Austria.
From Austria it was back to the US where he has lived and worked in New York City, Los Angeles, Sindona (Arizona), Coconut Creek (Florida) and Connecticut. North presently resides in Houston, TX, where he works for a nonprofit interactive math teaching company called Reasoning Mind, Inc.
“I really didn’t think I was this famous,” joked North after finding out that people were interested in where he was and what he was doing. “Actually I’ve played hockey wherever I’ve been. I just never turned pro.”
“When I was in high school, I played pretty injury-free hockey,” responded North. “I guess everything seemed to come easy for me. And yes, I did turn down an athletic ride to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. But I accepted an academic scholarship to Harvard. I also played four years of hockey there. But for the first time in my life, I got hurt playing hockey. The injuries seemed to occur almost every year. The injuries hurt my playing confidence, so I doubted my NHL readiness at that time. I still play pick-up hockey. I still follow the game on TV. But I have no regrets. I think I was born to be a teacher, which is what I’ve done all my life since leaving college. As for hockey, I really enjoyed the game and still do. But it never was a matter of life and death with me. It was a game that I enjoyed.”