Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Being a high-level athlete from Yellowknife gives you an instant profile in the northern community of 20,000 folks.
There have been several successful athletes from the N.T. community that's just 400 km south of the Arctic Circle.
Curling great Kevin Koe, Olympic cross-country skier Jesse Cockney and Florida Panthers third-round draft pick Steven Hodges all grew up there, among others.
MacEwan Griffins men's hockey player Jacob Schofield is also in the rolodex of the community's media outlets. He's a proud Yellowknifer, even if he left home at age 13 to further his hockey career in more southern climes of Western Canada.
"You kind of take it for granted a bit, but you get a lot of calls (from media) just trying to keep up with where I'm going with my career," he said.
"In order to excel in sport, you need to leave Yellowknife, which sucks, but I have all the support back home. I give nothing but credit to Yellowknife minor hockey and the sporting atmosphere in Yellowknife that made me the athlete that I am."
A former member of the N.T. Canada Winter Games team, Schofield is giving back by helping to scout and develop the squad that will play at the 2019 Games in Red Deer.
"Any athlete from Yellowknife, who has done anything with sport will always go back to help hopefully give back to Yellowknife sport," he said.
Schofield will lead the Griffins into Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference regular season action this weekend against Red Deer College (Friday, 7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena and Saturday in Red Deer, 7 p.m.).
It's a familiar city for him; Schofield went to high school there while a member of the Red Deer Chiefs that captured the 2013 Telus Cup Midget AAA national championship. In fact, this weekend he'll be matching up against former Chiefs teammate Chase Thudium, who is one of the Kings' top players.
"There's a little bit of a respect involved," he said of playing against his pal. "Before the game you'll talk to them 'hi, how's the season going?' But as soon as the puck drops, they're on the other team. You're going to take the puck from them, you're going to go hard against them and, to be honest, you want to beat them, and you want to beat them bad."
That competitive fire drives Schofield, who is having another successful season this season with the Griffins, with three goals and four points in the first six games of 2018-19.
"He had a really slow start last season and I think he was determined to not get off to a slow start this year," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose. "He came into camp and right from the get-go he's been pushing the pace, his detail's been good, and his work ethic has been excellent. I've been really happy to see him start to get the success he deserves for such a solid off-season."
"We've been working really well together," said Schofield. "Dallas is fast and so is Holt. They're all willing to work in those corners and get to the net. It's been working for us.
"We're a consistent line. We have some growing pains to go through, but I feel like if we stay together throughout the year, we could be a very dominant line in this league."
There have been a few growing pains for the two-time defending champion Griffins to start the campaign as they sit at 4-1-1-0, two points back of undefeated RDC (5-0-0-1) for top spot in the standings.
They ended SAIT's unbeaten start with a 5-2 win their last time out and are eager to do the same to the Kings. On the other side, though, is a team that's started hot and surely has their memory burning bright with how the Griffins swept them aside in the ACAC semifinals last March.
"I'm sure they haven't forgotten that," said Ringrose. "For us, it's an opportunity to test ourselves against a really good team. They did a really great job recruiting this year. They've brought in some key guys who have helped them right away. The young guys they had last year are a year older and have some experience under the belt, so they have some high-end skill at the top end of their lineup and then they have some grit that makes you work for it at the bottom half.
"They're a pretty well-rounded squad, so we're going to have continue to do what we did in the second half of the series against SAIT, which is get to the hard areas of the ice and be willing to work."
It's a style, after all, that has been good for two championships in a row.
"We're a hard-nosed team, we have lots of skill on the back-end and we have a good goalie," noted Schofield. "We're a hard team to beat."