Reality show winner fits in

KEN WIEBE, STAFF REPORTER

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Jordan Little knew it was a set-up but that didn't stop him from enjoying the moment to the fullest. Little, a 23-year-old Winnipegger who spent the past three seasons playing defence for the University of Manitoba Bisons, made his professional debut on Tuesday night with the Edmonton Road Runners.

His teammates were quick to welcome him with one of the oldest tricks in the book.

"When we were going out for the warm-up, Rocky Thompson said 'hey it's your first game, why don't you lead us out there,'" said Little, who played two seasons with the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League before joining the Bisons. "I knew what they were doing. I ended up wheeling around (the ice) by myself for a good minute there. I just wanted to let them have their fun. I didn't want to ruin it."

It has been a storybook season for Little, who started it all off by attending Making the Cut, CBC's hockey reality show tryout at the Highlander Sports Plex this summer.

Little advanced past the preliminary stages and onto the real deal, where he was eventually chosen first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the final episode of the show.

"I was just going there because a friend talked me into it the night before, I never thought it would have gone how it went," said Little. "It's been an awesome ride and I'm just very thankful for it."

Though Little attended the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie camp in September, he returned to the Bisons lineup and helped them advance to their first University Cup national championship appearance in 40 years.

"That was great," said Little, who plans to work on his skating and puck handling during the off-season. "We had an awesome team. We beat a good team in UQTR and we lost to a great team in Alberta."

As for his actual debut, Little took a regular shift alongside veteran rearguard Rick Mrozik -- a well-thought out move by Road Runners head coach Geoff Ward.

"He's going to learn a lot or just as much from just sitting on the bench with Rick and talking about what's going on as going out and making it happen (on the ice)," said Ward, who gave Little a "passing grade" for his debut. "The one thing with young players is that you want to put them in situations where they're going to be successful, so their confidence grows from there.

"It's a big jump (from Tier II junior to CIS to the AHL) in a short period of time, but I like his strength and size."

Getting a taste at the end of this season is only going to make Little hungrier for next season, whether he goes to training camp with the parent Oilers (his prize for being selected in the Making the Cut reality series) or the Road Runners.

Choosing to pursue his dream and putting his studies on hold wasn't a tough decision.

"I definitely intend to go back and finish the degree, but I don't know if I'm going to get this shot two or three years from now," said Little, who is studying arts and received the Mike Ridley Award this season recognizing athletic ability, academic standing and leadership. "I'm not here just to say I was here."


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