Jackson DeSouza loved his time in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with the Revelstoke Grizzlies.
While it was a short time, as he only played two games in the 2020-21 season that was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a lot of fun. DeSouza loved his time in Revelstoke so much that some of his Kelowna Rockets teammates “still give me grief as I wear my Revelstoke Grizzlies hat quite a bit. I rep it out.”
DeSouza made Grizzlies fans out of his Rockets teammates as he and older brother Noah, who he lives with, were following Revelstoke’s run to the KIJHL Teck Cup championship.
“When they won the KIJHL last year, he was at the game, but it came to the point where all my teammates were asking me how the boys were doing,” said DeSouza. “They would come in and tell me the score. It was pretty sweet just to see that the boys were cheering on the Grizz.”
Part of what DeSouza loved about playing with the Grizzlies was playing with Noah saying that was “pretty special.”
“The games were fast-paced and physical. Everyone in that league is playing with something to prove,” said DeSouza, who made the jump to the WHL during the 2020-21 season. “I think that’s what makes it so great about that league.”
An important aspect about his time in Revelstoke that has helped him in Kelowna were his Grizzlies teammates and how they carried themselves in the dressing room. The leadership group was led by captain Raymond Speerbrecker, Cash Sawchyn and other older players who held the younger guys accountable.
“I didn’t really see anything like that before. It was the same in Kelowna,” said DeSouza, who feels honoured to be named part of the Rockets’ leadership group this season. “It was the older players driving the bus and you have to drink the team’s Kool Aid, you have to be a part of it. You can’t have any passengers.”
During that 2020-21 season, which they played in a bubble, DeSouza played in four games, earning an assist. The next season, he put up 10 points in 60 games on the Rockets blueline. This season, DeSouza is pointless in six games, but offence isn’t his focus as much as it is being strong defensively, which has him plus-five to start the season.. He also plays on the penalty-kill and in a shutdown role, which the 6-4, 205 pound defender takes seriously.
Among the players he looks up to is another KIJHL alum in Shea Weber. DeSouza wants to play a heavy game and make the opposition pay when entering the Rockets zone. He also watches Detroit Red Wings defenceman Ben Chiarot, who plays the same style and other shutdown defencemen.
The Erie, Col., product focused his off-season training on getting stronger to battle in the corners, as well as making a strong first-pass. DeSouza wants to be able to get the puck up to the Rockets forwards as quickly and notices the added strength is helping his play.
“Being a shutdown guy, you want to make sure you have the strength to put guys on the boards and really control the defensive zone and having that strength really helps,” he said.
DeSouza credits his time in the KIJHL for making his transition “really easy.”
“When I was with Revelstoke, it was before the bubble season. Ryan Parent runs a tight ship over there with early morning workouts, and then straight to ice,” he said. “It just got me prepared for how much you’re gonna have to work and it’s about habits and Ryan is a great coach for that where you mess up in practice, you are doing pushups, or your skating laps. He’s keeping you accountable for your mistakes, which is huge going up to the next level. Instead of a little mistake having you miss a shift, in this league, if you make a mistake, it’s going into the back of your net.”
DeSouza said that Parent makes sure that the players’ details are sound.
“That really helped me a lot.”