Jeff Bes grew up in the beautiful city of Tillsonburg, Ontario. He was wearing ice skates from the moment he took his first steps. Hockey is the national sport of Canada, and Jeff never needed a push to play. He took to the sport like a duck to water. His inspiration came from his father and uncle who were both fine players in the minor league. On any given day Jeff was shooting pucks downstairs in the basement, or he was spending every possible moment at the local hockey rink. “I was a rink rat – Always watching the games, shooting pucks, and hoping to get that broken stick used in the game or catch the puck that flew over the glass. I have loved everything about hockey since I was a kid,” Jeff said.
During the summer, Jeff also enjoyed baseball and golf. He was quite good at any sport he tried. The only thing he didn’t care for was soccer because of the constant running. As soon as the temperatures began to dip and the leaves began to change, Jeff was back on the ice and totally in his element. He was born with a natural ability and excelled in everything, but hockey was always his sport of choice. It became clear that his forte was Center position. “I worked really hard and practiced all the time. I learned the proper techniques and had great coaches to guide me,” Jeff said.
Each winter when the ponds froze over, Jeff would revel in weekend practices and outdoor fun with his friends. A favorite spot was Lake Lisgar. They would skate together every Saturday and Sunday in the bitter cold, having the time of their lives. “My father was my first coach and he has always been a huge influence in my life. Those memories of my youth on Lake Lisgar with my friends are so important to me. Whenever I played hockey I never missed a practice and always played as hard as I could because it really is true…practice makes perfect. The energy and effort you put in during practice is going to be the energy and effort you bring to the game,” Jeff said.
Jeff Bes decided in his early teens that he wanted to chase the dream of becoming a professional hockey player. He had chosen to completely dedicate himself to the sport, and worked tirelessly to become the best player he could be. In 1990 he began his junior career. He proved himself worthy of a spot with the Hamilton Dukes of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and proceeded to make his mark very quickly. Jeff proved his mettle by spending countless hours at the gym working out in order to be in peak physical condition. He trained on the ice night and day, honing his skills and heeded every word of his coach. The team performance was good but not good enough to make it to the playoffs.
An unexpected turn of events resulted in the franchise being moved to the city of Guelph. The Dukes were now the Guelph Storm, and the team went through a very rough time. Jeff recalled that they really struggled with a big turnover. However the second season with The Storm was a totally different story. The franchise turned around as a result of some very good draft picks, and the team made it to the playoffs. A couple of years later, The Storm progressed even further, making it to the Memorial Cup which is the biggest championship in the Junior division. Jeff Bes was not a member of the team at that point because he had already gone pro but he could not have been more pleased. “I was so proud of their achievements and it was so great to see them reach that goal after the tough beginnings we had. I still keep in contact with those guys, Jeff said. General manager of the Guelph Storm, Mike Kelly, is one of the most important figures in Jeff’s career journey. Bes credits him with providing him with excellent guidance and being a primary key in his development.
One of the proudest moments in the life of Jeff Bes came when he won the gold medal for Team Canada during the 1993 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship. He was very young at the time and traveled to Sweden for the unprecedented event. The Canadian team went up against the best teams in the world, and it was not expected that the boys would do very well. But they came prepared, having spent the entire summer at camp with grueling practices and again during the Christmas holidays. At the time, Sweden had one of the best teams in the history of World Juniors, so naturally they were expected to take home the grand prize. A total of seven games were played. Jeff and his teammates won the first six games which insured the gold medal even before they took the ice for game seven. Jeff came away with the experience of a lifetime and a host of new friends. “It was such an honor to represent my country. When the gold medal was placed around my neck…it was a feeling that I cannot adequately explain, but the pride and excitement was overwhelming. It may not be macho to say this, but yeah, I teared up big time,” Jeff said. Many of his fellow teammates went on to have very successful careers in the NHL.
In 2003, Jeff signed with the Laredo Bucks in Laredo, Texas. He stayed with the team for eight years. His coach was Terry Ruskowski, who was one of the best minor pro coaches anywhere. “He groomed me and I learned everything I possibly could under his leadership. He was never easy on me, and expected nothing less than my best effort at every practice and at every game. He guided me every step of the way and was a great mentor,” Jeff said. Eventually, Bes became the Buck’s assistant coach and he and Ruskowski were very successful together. The Bucks went on to win two championships, and played in the finals twice. As a player, Bes was the all time leader in goals, assists, and points for the Bucks. He was also two time MVP of the CHL (Central Hockey League).
Throughout his career as a professional player, Jeff moved a great deal, living in many different cities along the way. “You try and take the best of each city with you. It is so important to become a part of the community, being active and meeting as many people as you can. I can honestly say that I have done that everywhere I have been,” he said. Bes played for the Daytona Bombers, Chicago Wolves, the Orlando Solar Bears, Jacksonville Lizard Kings, and our own Mississippi Sea Wolves, to name a few. When he was with the Sea Wolves, he became particularly enamored with the Gulf Coast. He felt an instant connection because of the warmth of the people.
Being selected as the new head coach of the Mississippi Surge is a dream come true for Jeff Bes. He has always loved this area and he cannot wait to be a visible and highly participatory member of the community. He is very anxious to lead his team to even greater heights and vows to be a positive influence here. “I will lead by example and intend to create a brand new Mississippi Surge as well as a Junior Mississippi Surge. This organization has been very successful and I want to continue on that path. I will always maintain the great tradition of this team,” he said. Coach Bes has many ideas for the future, including frequent visits to local schools to educate the kids about the great sport of hockey. He continued, “Every member of my team will be available to the fans and we will do everything we can to promote the Mississippi Surge.”
Coach Bes insists that his players must all be good citizens. They must show up and work hard each and every day, giving 100% of themselves for the Surge, and that they must be good players on the ice and honorable men off the ice. Although he would not discuss the Mississippi Surge roster, he was making his final decisions during the recruiting process. “I am very anxious to be able to reveal the names of the 2011 list of players and will do so very soon. I am really looking forward to seeing everybody come out and support the team. I am so grateful and appreciative of this opportunity, and I will make sure that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is always proud of us,” he said.