When Bowdoin hockey standout Jon Landry graduated in 2006, he knew he was embarking on a very different career path than many of his classmates; he was not ready to hang up his skates just yet. Since then, Landry has played hockey for professional teams in five U.S. states and three different countries. He is now one step—either an injury or a cut—away from making the NHL roster of the New York Islanders.  

“I always knew, even before my graduation from Bowdoin, that I wanted to play professional hockey after I finished school,” Landry wrote in an email to the Orient. “I wanted to give pro hockey a shot for at least a year or two, whether it was in the U.S. or Europe. I also had aspirations to use my degree in economics to work for an investment firm or start my own business.”

The Montreal, Quebec native was one of the best two-way players to skate in the old Dayton Arena. He finished among the team’s top three scorers each year, and recorded a total of 121 points (51 goals, 70 assists) in 98 games. As a senior he was named First Team All-NESCAC, and First Team All-American, and he graduated with a degree in economics and French.

In July, Landry signed his first NHL contract—a one-year, two-way deal with the New York Islanders organization. He was signed to a one year, two-way contract for the 2012-2013 season, meaning the Islanders can loan Landry to and from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, their American Hockey League (AHL) minor league affiliate, as they see fit. After the NHL lockout ended in January, he was offered an opportunity to make the team at the Islanders’ training camp. For Landry, it was a great moment after a very long and difficult road. He was one step closer to achieving his childhood dream. 

After graduating from Bowdoin, Landry briefly stayed in Maine after winning a roster spot with the Portland Pirates, the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes. The following season, Landry joined the Augusta (Ga.) Lynx in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), one level below the AHL. However, Landry only appeared in two games before he was cut from the roster. 

While others may have given up their hockey career and joined the business world, Landry’s ambitions pushed him to keep working toward his dream. 

“I think there were many times where I considered leaving the sport, but I kept telling myself ‘one more year,’” he said. “Minor league hockey isn’t exactly a lucrative business and D-III hockey isn’t exactly a regular stop for NHL scouts, but I always believed that if I was given the opportunity, I could play with the best.”

Landry joined the Arizona Sundogs, another ECHL team, in 2008,  and finally began to have some success on the ice. He helped lead the Sundogs to a league championship that year, and stayed with the team through the 2009 season. 

“That was one of the best times of my life,” Landry said in a recent article on NHL.com. “I’ll always cherish that moment. Any time you win in any league, that’s a great accomplishment. We were a really close, tight-knit group. I stayed in Arizona after that, thinking I would get an opportunity to move up the ranks with them.”

Landry continued to develop his skills and his luck soon changed when he received a call from a former Bowdoin teammate, Shannon McNevan ’05. At the time, McNevan, a former professional player himself, was working as general manager for the Cologne Sharks in Germany’s top league. 

“Shannon believed in my abilities and recommended me to his ownership group and ultimately offered me a contract,” he said. “This was a step up from the level at which I was playing at the time and it was a no-brainer to take the opportunity.”

The Polar Bear connection paid off for Landry, who continued to develop his skills as a defenseman. While Landry enjoyed his stint in Germany, a chance to play professional hockey and simultaneously earn his MBA led Landry to the Braehead Clan in Scotland. 

“The opportunity to continue to play professional hockey in an international setting while having my school paid for and earning a salary was too good to pass up. It doesn’t get much better, in my opinion.” he said. “Having attended Bowdoin as a student-athlete, I knew I had the right tools and work ethic to balance playing professional hockey and completing my business school degree.”

In Great Britain, Landry continued to shine and accumulated 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 54 games. In the summer of 2011, Landry was offered a chance to play for the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL, the league that had formerly cut him. After a productive half season with the Eagles in which he posted 30 points in 35 games, Landry was offered to try out for the Sound Tigers, the New York affiliate he currently plays for. Landry remained with the Sound Tigers for the rest of the year, and posted 20 points, before signing his NHL contract.  

Although the NHL season barely avoided outright cancellation after a 120-day lockout, the minor league affiliates of the AHL were unaffected by the strike and did not have any game cancellations. During his current year in Bridgeport, Landry has found a home with his consistent play. He leads the Sound Tigers’ defensemen with six goals and 20 points. He has also continued to show his leadership on and off the ice, and was elected Alternate Captain earlier this year. 

When Landry had the chance to compete for a starting role at the Islanders training camp in January, his fellow teammates were excited. Colin McDonald, a Bridgeport right-winger who was also invited to try out for the Islanders, was excited to hear Landry was joining him.

“He’s been our top defenseman pretty consistently all year,” McDonald told  NHL.com. “There’s a lot of guys who have more American League experience than he does, but what makes him a leader is the path he’s taken, and the guys respect him for that. Obviously he’s grinded it out in lots of different leagues the past couple of years. Not many guys have done that. I was very happy for him when I found out he was coming up with us. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.” 

Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano, who had an extra opportunity to assess the team’s minor league talent during the lockout, has also been impressed with Landry’s skill set. 

“There’s no question that he’s earned the opportunity to come to our training camp,” Capuano said in January. “I just think that Jon’s a guy who has paid his dues. He has good vision, intelligence, and hockey sense. He does a lot of good little things.”

Though Landry competed for a role with the Islanders, he has since returned to the Sound Tigers, who are in the midst of a playoff push. After several games were postponed due to Nemo, the Sound Tigers will take the ice on Friday against the Springfield Falcons. 

Despite his many playing stints across the U.S. and Europe, Landry remains in contact with his Bowdoin teammates and Head Coach Terry Meagher. Meagher said he has always been impressed by Landry’s puck handling and passing skills, but he also credits his character off the ice for his recent success.  

“He is as creative of a player I have ever coached,” Meagher said. “He is an adaptable athlete willing to try new positions in varied playing structures. I believe that is why he is playing at such a high professional level.  Add character, an engaging sense of humor, resiliency, academic focus, and good citizenship and you have a great role model and ambassador for Bowdoin and our hockey program. Jon is someone you enjoy rooting for. I am not surprised he is close to reaching his dream of playing in the NHL.”

Landry will make his next trip back to Maine on April 19, when the Sound Tigers face the Portland Pirates. Because of Landry’s contract, the Islanders can call him up to the NHL on a moment’s notice, especially in the case of a trade or major injury. 

“My biggest motivation would have to be my passion and love for the game as well as the support from my family,” Landry said. “I love being able to go the arena every day for practice and games; it is a real privilege. Also, I still have the desire to prove those people wrong that didn’t believe in me.”