Ams' Feser pursues WHL Iron Man mark

January 29, 2013 

There is no magic formula, nor is there a scientific explanation as to why some players are more durable than others.

Tri-City Americans captain Justin Feser, 20, has defied the odds for years, avoiding serious injury and illness.

From opening night his rookie year in 2008, Feser has pulled on his Americans jersey 329 times over the last five seasons. When the Americans host Prince George tonight, it will be 330, including his 300th consecutive regular-season game -- ranking him second all time in the Western Hockey League.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Feser, a native of Red Deer, Alberta. “It just kind of happens. I just go out and play. I’ve been fortunate to keep playing with nothing to worry about but a few stitches here and there. It’s gone by so fast. You don’t really know (about the records) until somebody says something.

“I still almost feel 16 again. I remember everything so clearly over the last five years.”

The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Feser holds the Americans’ record for consecutive games played, and he is tied for fourth in games played at 329 with Ian McDonald. Brent Ascroft holds the franchise record for games played at 355 (1992-97).

The Americans drafted Feser in the ninth round of the 2007 WHL draft. As a 16-year-old, he impressed enough to make the opening-day roster. From there, he has played every game, except for nine in his rookie season (2008-09).

He was held out of three games during the first half of the season. He then missed six games while competing for Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Challenge, where it won a silver medal.

His record of consecutive games started Jan. 7, 2009.

“It is rare for the league,” Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said. “He’s been a special player from the time he was 16. He impressed us so much we had to keep him. He never lets anyone know how banged up he is. He just keeps going out there. He is leaving a legacy here.”

Feser is closing in on the WHL consecutive-game record of 311, held by Dwayne Newman (Brandon and Victoria) from Feb. 2, 1988, through March 17, 1992. Newman, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, finished his streak four months and 12 days before Feser was born.

Barring any issues, Feser can tie Newman on Feb. 26 against Portland, and he would take over as Iron Man of the WHL on March 1 against Seattle. Both are home games for the Americans.

“I just go out and do my thing,” said Feser, who also has key roles on the power play and penalty kill. “I must be doing something right.”

Just ask his teammates.

“When I was there, Feser was a huge part of the team on and off the ice,” said Brendan Shinnimin, who played four seasons with Feser, and now plays for the Portland Pirates of the AHL. “Three-hundred consecutive games is a pretty huge accomplishment. You really have to take care of yourself. A few times he was sick or hurting, but he would fight through that. He wanted to do what he could for the team. We leaned on him for his leadership. He’s a warrior.”

Defenseman Drydn Dow called Feser “dedicated.”

“He is one of the hardest-working guys I know,” Dow said. “This is an amazing accomplishment for him.”

Defenseman Justin Hamonic called Feser a “gladiator,” while childhood friend and Tri-City defenseman Mitch Topping called him “competitive.”

“He will not lose,” Topping said. “That’s Fes for you.”

While Feser’s teammates have his back, it’s coach Jim Hiller who decides who gets ice time every night.

“He is like Groundhog Day,” Hiller said. “He shows up, he works hard and does his thing. I have never been disappointed in him, and that’s hard to say. You can count on him shift after shift. He never cheats you or his teammates. He is a special player.”

Feser said his work ethic comes from his dad, Myron, who coached him as a youngster in Red Deer.

“Growing up, my dad said if you can play through it, play. There’s no sense sitting out. If I happen to be a little sick or have bruises, I still go out there. I just have to take extra care of my body. It’s something I’ve always done.”

Entering tonight’s game, Feser ranks fourth on the Americans’ all-time list in goals scored (138), seventh in assists (175) and sixth in career points (313).

Feser, who leads the Americans in scoring this season with 27 goals and 39 assists, is tied for sixth in league scoring with 66 points. He was just as productive last season, but he was overshadowed by the 100-plus-point seasons of Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman and Patrick Holland.

“It’s been like that since I was growing up,” Feser said. “There’s always been the superstars like Shinnimin and Hughesman. I have no problem flying under the radar.”

He won’t be for long.

w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; afowler@tricityherald.com; twitter: @tchicequeen

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