GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Hockey is a family affair for Wisconsin native Jake Schmaltz.
“(We’re) super close,” the Gamblers forward said. “I mean we text and FaceTime and that stuff all the time.”
Schmaltz took after his two older cousins Nick and Jordan, who have both gone on to play in the NHL.
“Just seeing them play obviously motivated me,” Schmaltz said. “I just wanted to be more like them and probably me just going against them, day in and day out, things like that. That just pushed me to be a better player.”
Nick was a first-round pick with the Chicago Blackhawks and is currently playing for the Arizona Coyotes. Meanwhile, Jordan was a first-round pick with St. Louis Blues and he skates for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, following stints with the Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s awesome,” Schmaltz said. “I mean it’s just great you can just turn on the TV and watch them play, and then give them a FaceTime or something after the game to just catch up.”
The younger Schmaltz is following in his cousins’ footsteps. Both went through the Green Bay Gamblers organization and in the collegiate ranks, both also played at the University of North Dakota where he’s currently committed.
“It’s pretty easy because they went through all the stops that I’m going through, so if I’m ever in trouble, or if I need advice for things, it’s just an easy phone call and they’ll just get right back to me and it’s easy,” Schmaltz said.
“He was really excited to come back,” Gamblers head coach Pat Mikesch said. “He got to watch both of his cousins play for the Gamblers when he was younger, so they were key players here with this organization and had great histories, but you know Jake is here to create his own history now and I think he’s really excited about that.”
And that’s exactly what the 18-year-old aspires to do, which is create his own path.
“I don’t want to say I work harder, but I play more of a gritty game and they’re a little more skilled, but I just try and do whatever I can to help the team win,” Schmaltz said.
“I think his history… I think he wants it to be about what he left here,” Mikesch said. “You know his cousins were the high-end first round NHL picks, you know he’s a later NHL pick, but at the same time he’s you know, makes an impact on the game every night.”
As for what’s next, expect to see Schmaltz back on the ice for the Green Bay Gamblers next season.