RED DEER, Alta. — London goaltender prospect Ian Jenkins had his life tragically cut short in a car accident at age 15. Five years later, Tyler Parsons is keeping Jenkins' memory alive in the Knights' goal.
Parsons, who has backstopped the Knights to an Ontario Hockey League title and a berth in the 2016 Memorial Cup, grew up in Chesterfield, Mich. — just over 100 kilometres north east of Jenkins' hometown of Milan.
Parsons already plays with the letters H.A.P. written on his mask and pads. The letters stand for "Have a Purpose", which was Jenkins motto growing up as a kid. Jenkins was the creator of the phrase and wrote the letters on his equipment since childhood.
Parsons says when the Memorial Cup is finished he's got one more way to show his respect and admiration for the fellow goaltender.
"I'm getting (a tattoo) about Ian Jenkins.
"Getting a tattoo with a purpose, an angel, I think that'll be my favourite one yet," said Parsons who already has half his left arm covered with two other tattoos.
Jenkins was selected by London in the OHL draft and signed with the club on May 18, 2011. The following day he fell off the back of a pickup truck and on May 23 he succumb to the injuries sustained in the accident.
Parsons was familiar with Ian from playing hockey in Michigan, but his death brought him close to the Jenkins' family, which he's stayed in contact with ever since.
"Growing up I played against his brother, and I had a lot of close friends who were close with his family. After his passing I got really close with his dad."
The 18-year-old Parsons joined London at the beginning of the 2014 season after playing major midget for Little Caesar's in Michigan. He could have been Jenkins' understudy had the accident not happened.
The 2016 draft-eligible Parsons has been a big part of London's success this season.
He went 37-9-3 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in the regular season before assisting them to an OHL championship earlier this month.
Parsons has stayed out of the spotlight most of the season because of all the weapons London has up front. But teammate Mitch Marner says the team's success owes a lot to Parsons' ability to bail them out.
"He's been very important to us, a big reason we win a lot of games," said the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect. "He's been a brick wall."
Parsons gets a ton of accolades from his teammates and coach Dale Hunter because of how competitive he is. But his work ethic can also lead to frustration in practice.
"Sometimes the guys get a little mad at me because I'm always trying to make the third or fourth save and I sometimes mess up the drills," said Parsons with a smirk.
"Sometimes when we battle like that, Marner, he always likes to get the third and fourth chances, sometimes I don't even look at him, just surprise him with a glove save."
Parsons will make his tournament debut on Friday when London faces the host Red Deer Rebels to open the Memorial Cup.
Scouts will be keeping a close eye on Parsons with the NHL draft quickly approaching. He's currently the highest rated North American goalie on the NHL Central Scouting list.
"He's a great kid, his work ethic is outstanding and he's competitive," said Hunter. "When you get that combination you get a real good goalie."