Photo by Rena Laverty
For Justin Janicke, his first introduction to hockey came via an outdoor rink in his backyard in Maple Grove, Minnesota.
“I started when I was 3,” explained Janicke. “My dad [Curtis] was a big hockey guy growing up and I started on an outdoor rink in our backyard. Growing up, that was a big thing.
“My dad and my neighbor would spend weeks flooding the rink and getting it ready for us. It was really fun. It’s a Minnesota tradition to have a rink in your backyard. I feel that everyone has one, either that or a lake.”
It would often turn into a party in the Janicke backyard during the winter.
“We would usually have five or six people there,” he said. “Me and my brother and then, my sisters would come up every once in a while, but they didn’t like it as much. A few of our neighbors would be over too. We would have friends over every now and then to have parties and skate on the rink.”
Photo: Rena Laverty
Janicke also played baseball, football and a little soccer growing up, in addition to golf. Janicke loved competing no matter what it was, but hockey won out in the end. He also had a role model in his older brother, Trevor, who played for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program from 2016-18 and is currently a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.
“He had a lot of influence,” said Justin. “He loved it here. We definitely have had some different experiences already, but he definitely taught me that there are highs and lows, especially the first year, there are a lot of lows. You have to grind through them and keep working hard. Eventually, the success will come, and it will all be worth it in the end. He taught me to stick with it.
“He prepped me for the training. He told me how hard it was for him.”
The younger Janicke actually was never able to get to USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth to see his brother play. Hockey, understandably, has kept him pretty busy.
“I never got to come here until the tryout camp last spring,” he explained. “I would watch [the NTDP] when they played in Minnesota. That is kind of crazy since you would think that I would have been out here, but I was busy with hockey.”
When it came time for him to create his own path in hockey, he took some time to make sure that he was making the correct decision for him.
“It was a tough decision for me,” he said. “I knew it was a huge opportunity and I was giving up a lot by leaving but I couldn’t turn it down. There are so many opportunities here. You get so many good relationships with awesome people. The competition alone was something I couldn’t pass up.”
In his first two months with the program, the 5-foot-11, 174-pound forward has learned plenty about himself in just a short time.
“I have learned that I can do a lot of stuff that I didn’t think I can do,” he said. “I definitely had to learn about time management. It’s a little early to know but I have shown that I can do things I didn’t think I could do.”
One area of growth for him has been the team’s practices. He appreciates all the hard work that goes into making the Under-17s better players, both on and off the ice. He has taken to heart an important lesson from head coach John Wroblewski.
“Coach Wrobo has preached a lot about the little details,” said Janicke. “That is probably the biggest thing. He talks about work ethic every day and hard work. You can’t take a day for granted at all.
“We are battling with great teammates and competitors. We do a lot of battle drills and it really helps, especially playing against older competition with the physicality. I wasn’t used to that before coming here. Now, I have learned a lot from that.”
Janicke and his U17 teammates earned their first United States Hockey League (USHL) win on Sat., Oct. 19, a 5-4 overtime win at Chicago. It was special for him and the team realizes now what they need to do to continue to earn victories in league play.
“It was awesome,” he said. “The bus ride home was fun too. It was a nice reliever to get the first win out of the way and we can keep building on it and hopefully, get a few more wins.
“We have to stick to our details and play our game. We know that we have the skill, heart and work ethic to win. We know that we can do it.”
Team USA just finished up play at the 2019 Under-17 World Challenge in Medicine Hat, Alberta. This first international tournament was very special for Janicke.
“It was amazing to represent the USA against other countries," said Janicke. "It was crazy to be playing against the best competition from the other countries, too. It was a challenge, but we did really well taking second place."
One thing will never change for Janicke, and that is the feeling that he has each and every time he gets to wear the USA jersey. He will never forget the first time he saw the USA jersey hanging in the locker room.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“That was a crazy feeling,” he said. “When we first came here for orientation, we saw the locker room and it was 'oh my gosh.' For our first game, we had our jerseys there and it was so cool to see. It is a feeling that I will never forget.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.