By Mason Lyttle
JANESVILLE, WI — Fourth-year forward Kip Hoffmann will lead the Janesville Jets as captain in their ninth season of play in the North American Hockey League, new head coach Gary Shuchuk announced Thursday at an exclusive event for season ticket holders.
With 140 games played over three full seasons, Hoffmann is the most experienced player to be named captain in franchise history.
“It’s an absolute honor,” Hoffmann said of the title. “When Coach [Gary] Shuchuk announced it yesterday, it felt great to hear. I think the four captains announced, including myself, will do an unbelievable job leading the team on the ice and off the ice to achieve that ultimate goal at the end of the season, that Robertson Cup.”
The Huntley, Illinois, winger came to the Jets in 2014 as a graduate of the Chicago Mission program, then just 17 years old. Hoffmann scored two goals on 13 points his rookie season and took a major step forward the following year with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points. Last season, moving into a top-6 role, Hoffmann set career highs with 16 goals and 16 points, doing so in 6 fewer games than 2015-16. When April came around and the Jets focused on their push for the Robertson Cup, Hoffmann became a machine, scoring nine goals in nine playoff games, leading the NAHL.
“[Kip] a great kid and a great leader right now, and I mean it,” head coach Gary Shuchuk said. “I’ve watched Kip from his time in Chicago until now, and he depicts what a Janesville Jet is and a guy that can play junior hockey. He gives it his all, and I’m looking forward to him having a great year personally, but also to lead this group.”
Hard work and a commitment to a growth mindset are key to Hoffmann’s leadership approach, he said.
“I think everyone knows I’m not a big talker. I’m a little quieter off the ice, but the way I play the game is high-tempo and I think that can be infectious. Every day I come to the rink, I have one thing on my mind, and that’s to get better.”
Between his four Jets captains (in 2015, Alex Smith shared captaincy with Nils Rygaard, who began his NCAA career mid-season), Hoffmann pointed to a common trend.
“Drew Callin, Alex Smith, Nils Rygaard, Adam Roeder, those four guys have taught me so much with how they handled themselves having the captain’s ‘C,’” he said. “They were always such great teammates to everyone. They knew the letter didn’t mean they were better than anyone, and they didn’t act like it. They knew it just mean that they were the ones who needed to step up and be leaders throughout the season.”
With a new responsibility, Hoffmann is counting on his alternate captains to be voices, too.
“All three of those guys are two-year guys who are so important to this team,” said Hoffmann. They’re gonna step up and be guys we lean on. Alec Semandel on the defense is going to lead the guys on the back end, and with TJ Polglaze and Jakov Novak working 100% every shift, the younger guys will feed off that, and you’ll see that in their game on the ice.”
For a team debuting a new head coach, a new assistant coach, and four new captains, Hoffmann assured fans they’ll get at least some familiarity this season.
“The fans are going to see a lot of what they saw last year with how quick and how fast we play,” he said. “The puck’s going to fly all over the ice and plenty of plays will be made. Fans will see a lot of goals and a lot of big numbers being put up on that scoreboard. Coach Shuchuk has been great and is always preaching pucks on net. More pucks on net is more goals.”
The first stop for Captain Kip and the high-flying Jets is Springfield, Illinois, next Saturday, as the Jets open their season at the Nelson Ice Arena.
Contact the Janesville Jets’ front office at (608) 752-JETS, or go to www.janesvillejets.com for news about the Jets’ upcoming ninth season, including the 2017-18 schedule, broadcast information, promotional calendar, community outreach, and season ticket packages. Stay connected to the Jets through Facebook (/janesvillehockey) and Twitter (@JanesvilleJets1).