Fargo Force forward Jay Dickman has no problem admitting he’s happy to be the newest member of the team.
He also has no problem admitting his heart is still back in St. Paul either. Dickman’s high school career ended last week when St. Paul Johnson (MN-HS) was eliminated in the section finals.
The loss ended Dickman’s season, which saw him score 45 goals in 28 games. Dickman believes it also brought an end to St. Paul Johnson’s hockey program.
“I am not totally positive but I think it is almost about 90 percent sure its over,” Dickman said. “There are no numbers. We had 15 seniors on the team, four underclassmen and then an eighth grader playing goalie. The Johnson tradition is so amazing and to see it die is a shock.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote a story in early February regarding St. Paul Johnson’s future projecting only 15 players could be in the program next season. It is a stark contrast between most hockey programs in the Cities and across the state which have 60 players between a varsity, junior varsity and a freshman team.
A merger between St. Paul Johnson and Como Park was mentioned, but it doesn’t appear it will happen with Como Park already having the numbers for a program. Como Park’s athletic director, Mike Searles, told the Star-Tribune players from St. Paul Johnson are welcomed to play at Como Park next season.
St. Paul Johnson is one of Minnesota’s more historic programs. The school has won four state titles and is known for being the alma mater of former Minnesota coach and “Miracle On Ice” architect, Herb Brooks, one of the most revered figures in this state’s hockey history.
Dickman’s reasons for the decline, he believes, are a mix of private schools getting players from St. Paul Johnson’s zoning district. He added the lack of numbers due to a growing black, Hispanic and Asian student body, which are three ethnic groups that don’t have a high representation in the sport on a local, state and national level.
“Kids are leaving for Hill-Murray, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and St. Thomas Academy and its kind of sad how they do it,” Dickman said. “There are also not many white kids at Johnson anymore and there’s maybe 50 white kids in the school. The rest are black, Hispanic and Asian so there isn’t much to work with.”
Dickman was asked if he was recruited by a private school to leave St. Paul Johnson and he said ‘Yes.’
He declined the offer because he doesn’t believe private schools should take a kid from their zoned high school in order to play hockey.
Dickman added he could understand a player leaving a school. He said if there’s a situation where its just not a right fit, then there is a need to leave. But if there’s no problems, then a player should stay right where he is.
“Its why I left Mounds View,” Dickman said. “I am originally from Shoreview and the kids around me, I just didn’t feel right there. I went to Johnson and I knew kids would be nice there. I went there and had a great class of people.”
Dickman’s ties to St. Paul Johnson go back a ways. His father was the football coach and athletic director at the school while his godfather is the school’s hockey coach.
He remembers days where he’d get out of elementary school and run around the Johnson campus.
That’s another reason why Johnson losing its hockey program hurts him.
“Its just such a great program and its bad that its dying,” Dickman said. “I still write “ESTP” on my sticks for East St. Paul and I have done it since I was in ninth grade. It is a tradition I will never leave and carry all the way though my hockey career.”
Dickman admitted he was surprised at how his hockey career has unexpectedly continued.
The Force signed Dickman on the USHL’s Trade Deadline Day, a move which was the culmination of a quick and somewhat surprising process.
Dickman, despite his high goal totals, said he didn’t have many offers to play in the USHL until Deadline Day. He had expected to spend next season in the NAHL but was then contacted by Force scout Jesse Davis.
“It was a big shock,” Dickman said. “I never had talked to Jesse until a week before they signed me.”
Dickman made his debut with the Force last Friday getting an assist in a 3-2 shootout overtime loss against Waterloo. He picked up another assist in the Force’s 7-1 win over Waterloo on Saturday.
He said he was surprised by how much playing time the coaching staff gave him.
Dickman said he spent his first game on the power play, the penalty kill and getting all sorts of ice time.
“I didn’t think I’d have any points in the first few games,” Dickman said. “I had some scoring chances but those chances will come back again.”
Dickman’s strong season coupled with his physical attributes have made him a dark horse for the upcoming NHL Draft this summer.
He stands at 6-5 and 228 pounds and fields a surprisingly slender frame when he’s on the ice.
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News tweeted about Dickman the day he signed with the Force. Kennedy tweeted how a scout described Dickman as being built like an all-state wrestler but having incredible soft hands.
Dickman said he doesn’t agree with the assessment of being an NHL Draft prospect just yet.
“To be named as an NHL prospect, I got a lot of work to do,” Dickman said. “I have to work…I have things that can’t be taught, like size, skill and vision. But there are things I can be taught and need to be taught. Like speed and strength. People say, ‘Oh you are NHL material’ and I just say ‘Thank you.’ I am just shocked.”
Dickman said his goal would be to play in college and then the NHL someday.
If it were to happen, he hopes it would serve as a reminder to how good the Johnson program is and how it can continue to produce quality hockey players.
That’s if the school is still around.
“I will go anywhere that’s willing to take me and improve me as a player, student and as a person in general,” Dickman said about his college future. “And that’s what Johnson was based on. It was based on bringing you into being a better person and one where you believe in work. My dream is to play in the NHL but my No. 1 dream is to be the best person I can and give back to the communities I have been in and that’s about it.”