Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Zajac chasing family dream

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It's a name that means something in this town, especially in hockey circles.

And so when Winnipeggers see the name 'Z-A-J-A-C' across the back of a jersey it carries weight. It represents intangible things like quiet leadership, consistency, and hockey intelligence.

The latest of the hockey-playing Zajacs is Nolan, a defenceman with the University of Denver who is attending this week's Winnipeg Jets' Development camp.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the experience right now, especially being a hometown guy and with a team you've been following since you were a kid," said Zajac after practice Thursday. "It's a pretty awesome experience right now."

Nolan is the fourth of the Zajac boys to lace up skates and chase the pro game after father Tom played at the University of Denver in the 1970s. Travis is a mainstay and anchor with the New Jersey Devils while brothers Darcy and Kelly are both in the Devils' system with the AHL's Albany Devils.

Nolan wasn't drafted and plans to finish up his communications/business degree at Denver. After that he hopes, like his brothers, to be able to make a living playing the pro game.

"That's the dream, right? Everyone want to be a pro player." said Nolan, who attended the Vancouver Canucks' Development Camp in 2012 and Chicago's last year.

"I see a lot of guys living the pro life and that's what I want. Right now school comes first and hopefully hockey can take care of itself later."

Nolan Zajac turns 22 next month and first dreamed of playing goal -- an obvious destination as the youngest of four brothers who were looking for somebody to stand in the net. But he's been a productive point producer for Denver as a defenceman with 11 goals and 49 points over the last two years.

"When I was little I always wanted to be a goalie. Street hockey, I was always the goalie. I loved it," said Zajac. "I also loved scoring goals, too, and so I think the happy medium was playing D. Maybe that's why I'm defence."

The Jets D-Camp wraps up today with one session, at 10:45, at MTS Iceplex.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2014 C2

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