Catching Up With Jason York

757-game NHL veteran Jason York reflects on career highlights, the 2024 edition of the Ottawa Senators, and starting a new podcast with co-host Brent Wallace.

Looking back on your 757-game NHL career, what accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

I’m most proud of the fact that I was a really late draft pick, like a 7th-round pick. I was bypassed in 2 NHL Drafts. I actually went to an NHL draft in Montreal, and didn’t get picked and went home. I spent 3 and a half years in the minors.

It didn’t come easy. So when I finally made it and had a nice long career, I’m very proud of the fact that I pushed through that adversity. 

Being from Ottawa, I’m also very proud of being a part of that first team in Ottawa Senators modern history to make the playoffs. I think of that all the time, the crowd and the energy in the city, that was one of my favourite moments of my career.

Tell us a little about what Jacques Martin was like as a coach, and what do you think is the biggest impact he will have on the young core of players on the Senators?

To this day, Jacques was the most prepared coach I ever had. He was probably the best teacher of the game. He’s really good at teaching the small details that you need to be successful in the NHL, like making good decisions when you have the puck, being aware defensively, playing without the puck… Ottawa’s got a lot of good young skilled guys, but they needed to improve on their defence and their puck management, and that’s what Jacques helped the most with. The little details.. making the right plays, taking shorter shifts, when to dunk the puck and when to try and beat someone one on one, when not to try and do that. Just making these guys learn how to make better decisions on the ice, is probably the number one thing that they needed. 

I don’t know if he’s going to coach here long-term, I don’t think so, but I think he’s a good guy for right now. Along with Alfie, they create some building blocks. They have a lot of young players, so it’s a good time to build good habits. I think a lot of the habits some of these young players have need to be improved on, especially defensively, and he’ll help with that a lot.

If you were the GM- as the Senators stare down a 7th consecutive season missing the NHL Playoffs – what would you consider doing to turn things around?

They’ve got some really good pieces. One of the things with the Sen’s that people forget is that they’re really young up the middle. They’re one of the youngest teams in the league as far as centres go. I think this team is going to automatically get better as they mature and get a little older, but I do think they need to add a right shot D, as #1. And you could either hopefully do that at trade deadline or next year at free agency at the draft but, a right-shot defenceman for sure, an experienced 200ft player that could play in your top 9, that’s smart defensively. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the core pieces is traded to help get or bring in a right D and a good 200ft player with experience. 

Jason York sits at Copper Spirits & Sights at The Andaz Hotel. Photography by Nicolai Gregory

Looking back on Pierre Dorion’s 10 years as GM, what letter grade would you give him and why?

I’d give him a C. I just think, too many mistakes, too many trades. It’s not all on Pierre though. Unfortunately for him, there was a lot of interference with ownership, with Melnyck, project restraints, he wasn’t surrounded by the right people, the smallest hockey office staff in hockey. I understand there were different things like he was being told to trade players, but you know when you trade Mark Stone, and you get a player and you declare that the greatest and happiest day of your life, that’s pretty tough. And now you see the player they have, and the players not turning up… and no fault to Erik Brannstrom, that’s a lot of pressure. There were too many instances like that, where he traded great players and didn’t get a lot in return. But, I’ll give them credit, the Karlsson trade was very good, they got a lot of assets there. There were some good things, but for me, but too many bad things. And losing a first-round draft pick for Dadonov, inexcusable.

Tell us about the ‘Coming in Hot’ Podcast that you co-host with Brent Wallace and Bobby Ryan – how did that come about and what do you enjoy about it the most?

I worked in television for a long time, with Sportsnet, and Hockey Night in Canada, so I come from a media background. I wasn’t even planning on doing anything like this, though, I was thinking of going back to coach Junior Hockey. I had a couple of offers, I was looking at USports, some other things… and then Brent Wallace called me and asked me to do a podcast with him.

The thing I like about podcasting is that you can do it from your home. If you go on a trip or a vacation you can do it while you’re there. It gives you a lot of freedom in your life. You also have a lot more freedom to discuss things and explore opinions. I’m just honest… I say what I believe and I have no biases or skin in the game or anything, so that’s why podcasting has been so great for me, because you can just tell it as you see it. 

If you have one piece of advice you’d give to someone that’s reading this one day, that wants to follow in your footsteps and make it to the NHL, what would that be?

Go to school (laughs). It’s really hard to make it to the NHL… don’t put all your marbles in one basket. I love the fact that you have a dream, but I truly believe that being a student-athlete is the best way to play sports. Then you can get to the NHL by doing that. Technically you get more time by doing that now. But still, you have to put in a lot of practice, a lot of hard work, you need some luck, and you need a lot of things to go your way.

I have found that people who are successful, whether in music, sports, anything at the highest level, they have a drive. You have to have a drive to be a perfectionist at your craft. Whatever it is, you have to practice and do it more than everybody else. I just like seeing people passionate about whatever it is they choose to pursue.

What would you say is the key to happiness?

I think you need something in your life that you’re passionate about, you need some purpose in your life, something that you get up and you’re excited to do. And you need love in your life too. And I think you need to be active. I’m a big believer that you need to be active and you need to do something every day, just get out and get the blood flowing. 


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