Jaffray just a tap away

ADAM WAZNY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Those long junior and minor league bus rides that shaped his hockey career made the flight to Anaheim even sweeter for Jason Jaffray.

The forward was one of three Manitoba Moose players bound for the sunny climes of Southern California yesterday morning after word came down of their call-ups to the Vancouver Canucks. Joining the 26-year-old is forward Mason Raymond and goaltender Drew MacIntyre, as injuries to forwards Jeff Cowan (shoulder), Brad Isbister (lower body), Brendan Morrison (wrist) and goaltender Roberto Luongo (rib) over the last four days have left the Canucks scrambling for bodies.

"My heart was beating at around 190 beats per minute for the first hour after I found out," said Jaffray, en route to Anaheim yesterday. "When you're one of those non-drafted guys who has to work up from the bottom, it's definitely a lot tougher to get there. I look back to my Roanoke Express days, my Wheeling Nailers days and I think, wow, it wasn't too long ago I was in the ECHL playing for $500 a week. It is a long way to come, there's a lot of things that had to happen.

"It's just starting to sink in now."

No word if Jaffray will be in the Canucks lineup tonight but if he is, it would be the start of another chapter in his impressive story. Undrafted out of the WHL, the Olds, Alta., native played two and a half seasons in the ECHL before landing in Cleveland. After the AHL Barons cut him loose in February 2005, Moose GM Craig Heisinger brought him in and two full seasons of working his way from the fourth line to the first line -- earning a two-way NHL contract last summer -- later, Jaffray (who has 10 goals and 21 points in 19 games this year) is just a shoulder tap away from making his NHL debut against the Ducks.

One of Jaffray's first roommates in Manitoba was thrilled to see his friend's hard work pay off.

"Jaffs and I kind of have the same story," said Rick Rypien, another undrafted player unearthed by Heisinger. "He came to the Moose a couple weeks before I did and we actually ended up being roommates, so we got to know each other pretty well over that time. He's a guy who's had to work his way up and he's done it. This summer he really focused on making the next step, showing that he deserved that contract. It's good to see. I know the guys in the room are excited for him."

The usually eloquent Jaffray tried to put into words how he felt yesterday. Understandably, it was difficult to hold a thought.

"I've waited for that phone call or that call-up my entire life and when it finally does come ... I don't know how to describe it," he said, noticeably alive on the other end of the phone. "It's such a great feeling just to be able to tell your parents, your wife, and the people who have been with you for so long, through thick and thin. To hear their reaction on the phone and how excited they get ... it's pretty special.

"I'm not all the way there, I haven't talked to the Canucks yet and I don't know how injured guys are, but my path here is something I look back on. Or at least I will when the excitement dies down."


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