Jared Aulin talks playing in the NHL, injury setbacks, and reviving his career in Europe

Jared Aulin played 17 games with the Kings in 2002-03.

Playing hockey was never supposed to be tough for Jared Aulin. Introduced to it at a young age, he realized his dream when he was able to dominate in juniors, subsequently getting drafted in 2000. Through getting traded before suiting up in an NHL game, injury setbacks following his rookie season, and nearly hanging up his skates for good, Aulin has carved out a great 20+ year career in professional hockey.

Aulin grew up in Calgary and like many other kids his age, he played almost every sport, but the sport of hockey was what stuck with him the most.

"My parents pretty much threw me into everything when I was younger, but hockey was definitely what I was most passionate about," Aulin said. "I enjoyed playing sports and being outside and still do to this day."

Hockey would take Aulin to the next level, which was every kid's dream growing up. While he always knew he was good enough to play at higher levels, he did not believe in it until scouts would approach him as he got older.

"Parents and coaches would always tell me I was good enough [to play at the next level], but I never really bought into it until I got older and scouts would talk to me," he said. "I am thankful I made it because there are a lot of guys who were good enough to make it but never did."

At age 16, Aulin would move nearly seven hours away to play junior hockey with the Kamloops Blazers and was fortunate enough to be able to stay with his grandmother in British Columbia. He believes that paired with him not having to worry about talking hockey in school was what helped him stick with it going forward.

"My parents grew up in Kamloops, so I was lucky enough that the organization allowed me to stay with my grandma," Aulin said. "I was also able to go to school and not have to worry about talking hockey unless someone brought it up. I was happy that I could make a name for myself first. My experience in Kamloops was great."

Aulin would score just 26 points in his first 57 games as a Blazer from 1998-99, but it was his third season in Kamloops that put him on the map. He scored 55 points in 57 games, including leading the league with 23 through nine games, and caught the attention of the Colorado Avalanche, who drafted him 47th overall in 2000. While getting drafted was a great experience, he had to play through a broken ankle and torn ligaments in his ankle which took away from his draft stock and made him fall out of the first round.

"Getting drafted was great, but I was in a weird situation [that season]," he said. "I had to play through ankle injuries and I went from leading the league in points through nine games to finishing with 55 points in 57. I wasn't allowed to talk to scouts either, as our coach believed it was a distraction to our play. It was exciting, but sitting through the first round and not hearing your name called after being projected to go in the first was an adjustment. When your name is called, you realize that your draft position is just a number, and all that [disappointment] goes away."

Being drafted amped Aulin up on the ice, as he had the best season of his junior career, scoring 31 goals and 77 assists to surpass the century mark in points for the first time. However, during this season, Colorado dealt Aulin's rights to Los Angeles for Rob Blake and Steven Reinprecht, trading him away before he was able to suit up in a game with Colorado. Looking back, Aulin believes that if he had gone against his agent's wishes and let him be pulled from Kamloops to play in Colorado, he would have, but he has no regrets about not doing it.

"At the time, Colorado bypassed their AHL team to try and pull me from juniors, and if I had known any better, I would have told my agent to let me play instead of trying to guarantee ten games from Colorado," Aulin said. "I was the player to be named later in that trade, and I got to Los Angeles and was excited. Two scouts followed me during my juniors career, Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis, and when I got to camp, I found out they had passed away the next day in 9/11. They were very supportive of me, and two great guys whose lives ended way too early. I had to start from square one when I got to L.A. since I had no scouts who knew how I played, but I was still excited."

Before he would make his NHL debut with the Kings, Aulin got the chance to take part in the 2002 World Junior Championships, representing Team Canada, picking up the silver medal and scoring nine points in seven tournament games. He believes that this tournament was one of the best experiences of his hockey career.

"To have the entire country behind you and supporting you was unbelievable," he said. "We played in a time without social media, so you wouldn't get ripped apart by the whole country if you had a bad shift. We would get fan mail at breakfast and get to read that. Colin "Toledo" Robinson was our equipment manager, and he would get a teddy bear and put the opposing country's flag on it and then tackle it to get the guys amped up. Putting on that [Canada] jersey was something special."

He played in the preseason during the 2000-01 season with the Kings and recalls playing against some of the best players in the league and trying to beat them as his "welcome to the league" moment.

"I remember we were playing Phoenix in the preseason, and a [Coyotes] defenseman had just dumped the puck in, so I hit him during the follow-through," Aulin said. "Keith Tkachuk told me that if I ever did that again, he would rip my head off. In that same game, I faced off against Jeremy Roenick, and he said to me, 'Don't bother putting your stick down kid, I'm gonna win the faceoff anyways.' I was fortunate to train with those guys years later."

He spent another two seasons in Kamloops and spent the beginning of 2002 in Manchester playing for the Kings AHL affiliate. Aulin would finally make his NHL debut on December 17, 2002, skating for just under five minutes in a 6-2 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Making his debut was special, but he wishes that he played a little more.

"It was exciting, especially on my first shift," Aulin said. "I beat the defenseman, dropped the puck back to [Mathieu] Schneider and he took a slap-shot and hit the crossbar as I was hit from behind. I drew a penalty and almost got an assist on my first shift, and barely saw any ice for the rest of the game. The excitement I had was gone, as I wanted to play more. Young guys during my time in the league were given less free reign out there to make mistakes. That's just the nature of the game sometimes, looking forward to my next shift and never getting it."

He would play six games before recording his first point in the seventh game, which was the primary assist on a power-play goal by Mike Cammalleri on January 7 in a 7-4 loss at Dallas. A month later, he would have the best game of his career, scoring two goals and an assist in an 8-2 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes on February 7. He remembers that game fondly.

"It probably was the first time I got more than six minutes of ice time," Aulin said. "I remember Jamie Storr passed it to Brad Norton who was my linemate, and he gave it to me on the off-wing. I ripped it top-shelf, and before I could get crazy and celebrate my teammates tackled me. Luckily, I was able to get a good celly in on my second goal, which was a rebound where [Alexander] Frolov pushed it over to me. I felt like that was my breakout game, but unfortunately, they sent me down for the weekend and I never came back up. I blew my knee out at the end of the year, and that was that. I am thankful for the opportunity I have, and while I am sure I could have had a longer career, I am happy I was able to get that chance."

Aulin played one more game, picking up 7:44 of ice time in a 3-1 loss to Dallas. He was sent down soon after and was unfortunately never called up to the NHL again, finishing with 17 games played, two goals and two assists.

The following season, he suffered a shoulder injury which still affects him to this day. He missed a big majority of the 2003-04 campaign and was then traded to Washington for Anson Carter, returning to the ice with the Portland Pirates later on in the season. It was tough for him to be traded, but he was more focused on returning to the ice.

"That was definitely tough, especially because [Los Angeles management] told me I was not gonna get traded," he said. "On deadline day, Washington wanted me, and I was traded for Anson Carter. I was trying to get rid of the rust, and that season was tough, and so was the next season due to the lockout. It was devastating, but I learned to deal with the pain. You realize you are replaceable once you get traded. There is always someone that can take your spot, which is a good life lesson."

Following the lockout, Aulin played a season with the Hershey Bears and another with the Springfield Falcons. In 2007, he reached a crossroads and was struggling to decide on whether or not to retire from hockey due to the shoulder injury and generally not feeling happy about playing hockey, not due to his play but due to politics involved in organizations.

"Around that time, teams invested in me once but did not want to invest in me further [because of the shoulder injury]," Aulin said. "Coaches were not being transparent. I was at a point where I didn't want to put my shoulder on the line and play the game I once loved but did not anymore. I decided to step away and focus on myself for a bit to try and find that passion again."

His decision was furthered when he played in a non-contact league during that summer and certain players would target him in hopes of NHL teams noticing it (spoiler alert, they did not) despite Aulin being as nice as possible to everyone. While this discouraged him, later, a friend reached out to him to join the University of Calgary which helped him find his passion for hockey again.

"Ryan Annesley was one of my best buddies, and he happened to be playing for the University of Calgary at the time and suggested he talk to the coach and see if he could get me in the school," Aulin said. "I definitely wanted to go to school, so I accepted. Scotty Atkinson, who was the coach, worked his magic and I was able to get into school and play hockey. It triggered my love for the game again. [The biggest thing] was having a coach and players who supported me."

Jared went through further rehab before finally attempting to make a North American comeback in 2009, jumping on a PTO for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He played the season with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL for the 2009-10 season, notching 37 points in 64 games, and the following year he made the jump to playing overseas, joining Leksands IF of the HockeyAllsvenskan for one season, scoring 30 points in 36 games. While initially experiencing apprehension joining Leksand, the city being nice and the people he surrounded himself with helped him enjoy it.

Aulin during his time in Leksand

"I was worried at first, but playing in Leksand they had a passionate fanbase," he said. "I was by myself in Leksand though. It was tough to go out and meet people. Luckily, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre was my neighbor, and he really helped me out, we would build snow forts outside each others' houses to try and keep them out. It was great."

It was with Örebro HK, however, where he would enjoy the most productive seasons of his career since 2002, scoring 108 points in the first two seasons with them and surpassing a 50-point season for the first time since juniors. Not only was the scenery great for him, but the fanbases always rallied around Jared as well.

Aulin had some of his most productive years in Örebro.

"You could be an unbelievable hockey player over here [in North America], but if you can't skate [well], you are not going to make it [in Europe]," Aulin said. "The fans were great everywhere I played in Europe. The fans are different there, as opposed to businesspeople going to games and not even watching them in America. In Europe, they have sections where fans from both teams are only allowed, and they get into chanting wars, it was unbelievable."

The city embraced Aulin as one of its own, backing him during every moment, and Aulin said it was one of the most memorable hockey experiences he had. This support was increased in 2014 when Jared's mother, Patricia Aulin, passed away. The fanbase showed its support in droves, placing banners throughout the arena with her name on them, and this stays with Aulin to this day.

"To know that the fans saw me as a human being first and saw how much I loved my mom, it was really special," Aulin said. "I don't think any fanbase in sports anywhere has shown its support for someone's mom, especially the whole city. As much as that was an extremely trying time for me, and my escape was on the ice with the fans backing me. It was something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."

Aulin played another season in Örebro before signing with the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers of the National League, and in his third season with the Lakers, he was instrumental in helping that team clinch promotion back to the Swiss League, which was awesome to him, especially with the coach having an open-door policy. Following four seasons in Rapperswil, he played one season in the DEL with the Straubing Tigers before joining his brother-in-law, Layne Ulmer, in the EIHL with the Manchester Storm, where he played before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While hockey is not the biggest sport in the United Kingdom, the experience has been great and the fans are equally passionate according to Aulin.

"Coach Ryan Finnerty reached out to me, and let me play and have fun," Aulin said. "Finnerty was really helpful for me. It was a very young team, but we had a lot of fun. I felt old, but I realized how much I loved mentoring players. The fans to this day still treat me and my fiancée, it was really special. Their fans are super passionate, it was unfortunate that their league had to be canceled this year."

Aulin is currently in real estate courses while he waits for the pandemic to pass in hopes of returning to the ice. You can follow him on Instagram (@JaredAulin) and Twitter (@JaredAulin), and you can find the full interview here.


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