Former Badger, Janesville Jets part-owner chasing Olympic gold
Not a bad resume for a 25-year-old.
But then again, Joe Pavelski is not your average Joe.
The Stevens Point native is set to make his Olympic debut on Tuesday with the United States men’s hockey team. The San Jose Shark all-star center, who has led the Sharks to a league-best 39-11-9 record, hopes to lead Team USA to its first gold medal since the “Miracle On Ice” in 1980.
“It’s a really exciting time right now,” Pavelski said. “From playing against these guys during the season, and from skating with them at the orientation camp last summer, I can’t wait to put on the USA jersey and represent the country alongside them.
“There’s just so much talent on this team. But pretty much every country represented can say that. It really is the best players in the world.”
Pavelski is a 2001 graduate of Stevens Point High School, and scored 101 points in 84 NCAA games for the University of Wisconsin, which included a 2006 national championship. He was drafted by the Sharks in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and in his rookie season in 2006-07, scored 28 points on
14 goals and 14 assists.
“Every level is another step for me,” said Pavelski, who began his post-high school career with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.
“To be able to say that I played in the Olympics is a dream come true. Along with winning the Stanley Cup, winning a gold medal is what every kid dreams about growing up. Hopefully, before I’m done playing, I’ll get the chance to do both.”
Pavelski is putting together another solid season for the Sharks. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder has 16 goals and 19 assists in 44 games, and a +/- rating of +10, which means when he is on the ice, the Sharks have scored 10 more goals than their opponents.
Another former UW superstar, Dany Heatley, is second on the Sharks in scoring with 66 points but has played in 15 more games than Pavelski.
With so much on his plate already and only 25 years old, Pavelski was hesitant about joining the Wisconsin Hockey Partners, LLC—the parent company behind bringing the Janesville Jets and NAHL hockey to the city.
But after doing extensive research on the NAHL and visiting Janesville during the summer to get a first-hand look at the community, Pavelski was sold on the idea.
“Wisconsin didn’t have a team in the NAHL, and after visiting Janesville, I thought it was the perfect fit,” Pavelski said. “And I liked the idea of Wisconsin players being able to stay a little bit closer to home.
“And so far, all the reports I’ve gotten have been good. Fans are showing up, the team is playing well, and hopefully, the Division I scholarships will follow.”
Rui Encarnaceo became the first Janesville Jet to earn a Division I scholarship last Wednesday after signing a national letter of intent with the University of Connecticut.
Because of his hectic schedule, Pavelski hasn’t gotten a chance to see the Jets in action yet. But he keeps tab via the internet, and with phone calls to WHP President Bill McCoshen and General Manager John McCally.
“For an expansion team that nobody knew much about, I think everyone is surprised at how well they’ve played,” Pavelski said of the Jets, who are in third place in the NAHL North Division and earlier in the season had a seven-game winning streak. “And that’s a credit to the coaches, management and the players.
“And it say a lot about Janesville and the fans. I’m sure they’re a big reason for the success.”