Kootenay Ice forward Jared Legien stands in front of the Lethbridge net during a game in 2015-16.

Kootenay Ice forward Jared Legien stands in front of the Lethbridge net during a game in 2015-16.

Legien closes Kootenay Ice chapter of his life

The Ice's former first-round pick was released from team after he made the tough choice to return home.

Brad McLeod

At the end of the 2015-16 season, Jared Legien was honoured by the Kootenay Ice with an award following his first season with the team. It wasn’t the MVP trophy, the prize for top rookie, or even the distinction of being the most underrated player. Legien was given the EKC Community Relations Award for the time he spent reading at local school libraries, helping with minor hockey practices and playing street hockey with youngsters.

After spending 69 games with the team last year, the Ice announced on Monday that Legien had been reassigned to a to-be-announced team in the Saskatchewan Minor Hockey League. According to coach Luke Pierce, the decision fulfilled the seventeen-year-old from Pilot Butte, Saskatchewan’s desire to return home.

Last year was tough for Jared, he felt that he struggled a little bit and [with] the way the year started for him [this season], he just wasn’t enjoying himself the way you should be when you’re playing the game,” Pierce said. “He wanted to go back closer to home and he’s going to play some tier two hockey there, and hopefully enjoy the game a little more.”

Pierce said that he respected Legien’s decision and that he empathized with how tough of a call it was for a young player to make.

I had a really good meeting on Sunday with Jared, we went to get coffee and just talked about life more than anything,” he said. “I think he’s going to be successful in whatever he chooses to do because of his personality and how much he cares about people.

His involvement with our community last year, his relationship with his billet [family], his relationship with his teammates — he’s just a great all-around kid and I think he’ll do well.”

Legien first joined the Ice as their first pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam draft. He was the ninth pick overall and was just five selections back of Nolan Patrick, the Brandon Wheat Kings forward who is currently projected to be next year’s top NHL draft pick.

Legien picked up 8 points in his 71 career WHL games, suiting up for two of the Ice’s opening four contests this season.

The Ice are now nearly at the roster number that they will carry for the remainder of the season. They currently have 24 players — three goaltenders, seven defencemen, 14 forwards — still with the club.