Tom Jackson (centre) with Bez Hughes (left) and Lee Kemp (right) celebrating the 2018/19 Laidler Division title win. (Photo by Geoff White)
Popular Widnes defenceman Tom “TJ” Jackson’ s long service at the club was rewarded recently with a special award to recognise 200 appearances as a Wild player.
Jackson actually has the highest number of appearances overall for the Wild team with 225 under his belt, despite not having been at the club as long as some of the other players – and that is quite an achievement for a player who is only 24 years of age!
Jackson learnt his junior hockey in Hull and played over 70 games at U16 and U18 levels for Kingston junior teams, as well as making 4 appearances for the North U15 Conference representative side.
He played his “rookie” NIHL season in 2012/13 with the Hull ENL Stingrays (as the nowadays Hull Jets team were then called) making 15 senior appearances while still turning out for the Kingston Under 18 team as well.
The 2013/14 season saw the big switch as far as Tom was concerned as he started off the season on Humberside playing 15 games for Hull before opting to join the new Widnes Wild team mid-term. He played 15 games for the Wild – scoring 2 goals and 2 assists, picking up 46 penalty minutes – and has been here ever since!
Tom explains how that move came about:
“My time at Hull was great, coming through the last few years of juniors and starting out at seniors I got to play with some great players and got really good coaching from their system. When I came to Widnes there were a number of factors which brought me to the team.”
“First of all was the realisation that ice hockey is not a cheap sport, I’m lucky enough to have been supported even through a majority of my senior years by sneaky gifts off my mum and dad after breaking sticks and other parts of kit. Travelling to Hull from my home town was rather expensive 4-5 times a week when it became senior hockey.”
“Secondly, I had just started working at a temporary ice rink in Manchester city centre so I was able to fund my travelling expenses to Hull for hockey, also working at that same ice rink were a couple of original Wild team members who I became rather close to such as Calum Ruddick and Tom Ratcliffe and they helped in the decision to switch sides and come to Widnes.”
“I also knew Shaun Dippnall from growing up and playing roller hockey and this gave me more of a reason to be able to join a team mid-season knowing a few people already – especially at a younger age.”
“Lastly and most importantly was the team itself. Everyone involved with the Wild was so welcoming and, even before I had left Hull, being able to train with the Widnes team before I made the decision. I was also able to come to a few games and seeing how the fans would get behind the team blew me away.”
When asked about which players had impressed him to most in his 6 ½ seasons at Widnes so far, Tom said:
“It’s hard to just pick one person, there has been many players and coaches that played their part over the years. The first few years, the coaching staff were great to start us along the path to winning ways coached by Mark Gillingham, who kept that consistency throughout. Scott McKenzie brought in great coaching systems and made us into a more professional outfit and then Ollie Barron turned us into that winning team who won the 3 playoff titles and then the league title last season.”
Commenting on the past season, Jackson said:
“This season was always going to be tough, if you remove a whole top line from any team in any league it leaves a big gap to fill by other players. Starting the season was exciting with new faces and coaching and then we started getting injuries but showed our character in games to battle and get out of each game with points, even with a depleted team.”
“Once we got back a few more players toward the end of the year, we were having a nice little run before it all got put on hold and cancelled in a tough way, leaving us a bit bitter how the seeding happened with points being dished out for games not being played previously and then not for the last few games but it just gives us more to play for next year.”
“Personally I just do what I can to help the team if the teams winning and I feel I’m contributing that’s all that matters for me.”
Tom’s younger sister Charlotte took up ice hockey this season after a number of years playing roller hockey and ball hockey and immediately won the league title with the Widnes Wild women’s team in her debut season. How does he feel about that?
“The women’s team have really improved this season and proof is in their achievement of winning the league. It’s great that she’s now playing and enjoying it, she tried when she was younger and couldn’t stand up and she’s only really started on ice this season too – so she’s really doing well.”
“She’s stubborn but I often go on and help the women’s training and it’s good to keep an eye on her and make sure, if she’s not concentrating, I can give her a shout or even a little whack across the pads to wake her up again!”
By the end of the current 2019/20 Laidler Division season, after 6 ½ seasons with the Wild, Tom Jackson had notched up an incredible 225 games, scoring 16 goals and 47 assists.
The 6’2”, 214lb defenceman is no shrinking violet and has 307 penalty minutes to his name – a total which is “bettered” (if you choose to look at it that way..) only by Lee Kemp who has 365 PIM from 175 games and Thomas Ratcliffe with 326 PIM from just 114 games.
In terms of total appearances for Widnes, Jackson leads the way with 225, followed by Ken Armstrong on 220 games, Shaun Dippnall on 197 games and then Bez Hughes and Lee Kemp – both with 175 games.
Talking about his award for having passed 200 games, Jackson said:
“It feels like I’m ageing, but it’s great to play in front of our fans and being around the boys in the changing room. I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to keep coming back to the team to play for the coaches, players and the fans.”