CALGARY, AB -- Joe Colborne couldn’t help but find himself in a hockey rink during his Olympic break.
The Calgary Flames forward, just 24 years young, headed to the Camrose Regional Sport Development Centre on Feb. 14 as his former Kodiaks club paid him the ultimate compliment -- a jersey retirement.
“It’s just such an honour,” said Colborne, who had his No 12 raised to the rafters. “It still is a shock. When Boris (Rybalka) called me in the summer and kind of mentioned that they had been thinking about it for a while and wanted to use the Olympic break, it kind of blew my mind.”
It shouldn’t have.
Though he played just two years (2006-08) with the Kodiaks, Colborne’s impact was immediate. He compiled 138 points in just 108 games and helped Camrose to back-to-back Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) titles. In his final year, Colborne was named Canadian Junior A Hockey League (CJAHL) Player of the Year following a 33-goal, 90-point season.
“I remember being so proud and happy to just make the team and put that jersey on for the first time,” he said. “To have them want to retire it is something I never thought would happen.”
He capped his Kodiaks career by becoming just the second player in AJHL history to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft after he was drafted in the first round, 16th overall by the Boston Bruins.
It’s not a surprise the 6-foot-5, 213-pound forward considers his time in Camrose as “two of the best years” of his life.
“I learned so much as a hockey player and as a young man,” said Colborne, who has four goals and 15 points in 56 games with the Flames this year. “Two of the biggest growth years I’ve had as a player, probably. That counts to the coaching staff, including Boris.
“My teammates, too. We had such good leaders there. I’ve never seen a closer team than that. To win two championships there and have the success we did was something that too many teams get to do.”
A second AJHL title with Camrose wasn’t a given for Colborne. After his rookie season with the Kodiaks, Colborne contemplated a jump to the Western Hockey League.
But after a successful opening campaign Colborne wanted more, which paved the way for his MVP campaign, another title and his eventual jersey retirement.
“After my first year, we looked seriously at maybe going to the WHL and maybe moving on and just thought it was such an unbelievable year, why would I be in a rush to get out of there?” he questioned. “I went back for a second year and it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
That decision was re-enforced on Valentine’s Day.
“Every time I go back there, the fans, people in the community, teammates, it’s like you’ve never left,” Colborne said. “You pick up right where you left off and it’s been awesome.”
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