Arizona Rubber

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Bonding time with father helped shape Coyotes’ Chychrun

 

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If your dreams and aspirations are to play in the NHL, then there is no better a coach and mentor than your dad.

Then again, not all aspiring players have a former NHL defenseman as their dad and coach.

That’s the enviable position Arizona Coyotes’ rookie defenseman Jakob Chychrun enjoys.

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Not only has Chychrun settled in as a valuable member of the Coyotes’ blue line contingent, his presence is hardly noticed. A prevailing axiom in sports holds than if you do not notice a player, an umpire in baseball or official in a striped shirt, then they are preforming their duties with competence and capability.

That seems to be Chychurn’s reality. Paired with Connor Murphy, the pair has established a solid rapport in the dressing room and a high degree of reliance on the ice.

For Chychrun, that all started skating on youth hockey teams in south Florida with his dad, former NHL defenseman Jeff Chychrun, by his side.

Following a 10-year career with Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Kings, Pittsburgh and Edmonton, including getting his name etched on the 1992 Stanley Cup while playing for Pittsburgh, Jeff was part of the Florida Panthers’ coaching staff when Jakob was on March 31, 1998.

Throughout his development on youth teams in the Miami area and later playing for youth teams in Detroit and Toronto, Jakob is the first to credit his dad for support and instruction.

“There are two big things I learned from my dad – work hard and have fun,” Chychrun said. “My dad always said you have to enjoy the game and you have to love the game. You have to have a passion for it and if you don’t, you won’t be dedicated enough to continue to push forward and improve yourself. Most importantly, you have to have fun. Another main thing my dad taught me is how hard you have to work. Some things you can’t control, like having a bad day in school or if the ref makes a bad call on you. You always control showing up at the rink, giving it your all and not being outworked.”

Jakob’s path the NHL was not a straight line,and there were unique situations in which he continued to be close to his dad.

First, Jakob and Jeff commuted each weekend for two years from south Florida to Detroit so Jakob could play for Little Caesars during two Bantam seasons.

“I was ready to leave the house at 12, but my mom wanted me to remain at home, so I stayed,” said Chychrun. “I went to school in Florida during the week and every weekend, my dad and I would fly to Detroit to play in tournaments for Little Caesars. Those were two great years of bonding time with my dad.”

Attempting to move to the next level, Jakob hit a roadblock. USA Hockey required a special exemption for 15 year olds to be eligible for Major Junior hockey. When Jakob and his dad petitioned USA Hockey for an exemption, they were denied. That’s when Jakob joined the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in the Greater Toronto Hockey league for his Minor Midget season.

From there, he became the first pick of the Sarnia Sting in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection and the Coyotes made him a first-round pick (16th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

“The game is growing tremendously, especially in southern states like Florida, California and Arizona,” Chychrun said. “It’s great to see the game growing and I consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity to grow up and play hockey in Florida. I honestly would not want that any other way. I would be at the beach on the weekend and playing games during the week. I was pretty lucky to have my dad coach me growing up and he made it fun for my teammates and myself.”

Photo/Norm Hall

— Mark Brown