Late bloomer beats the odds to success
Hockey: Jon Malin guest speaker at OOAA banquet
By: Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 06:00 am
There are many routes to reach one’s destination and one of the best success stories to come out of Okotoks minor hockey certainly took the road less travelled.
Jon Malin’s roadmap from underachieving minor hockey defenceman in Okotoks to junior standout in British Columbia and Alberta to his excellence as a student-athlete with the SAIT Trojans was not without detours and would be dead-ends.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve turned myself from a mediocre hockey player that cared if he only barely passed school,” said Malin, in a rousing speech as the guest speaker at the Okotoks Oilers Athletic Association (OOAA) Awards Banquet on April 8. “To a college student-athlete that graduated as a student with honours, a one-time award winner for dedication to off-ice training, a one-time Alberta College All-star, one-time Alberta College Academic All-star for having the highest GPA in the league.
“I was the team captain, two-time national champion, three-time Academic all-star for having the highest GPA on my hockey team and one-time SAIT Trojan of the year.”
A plethora of feats few would have forecasted a decade earlier.
Malin, an OOAA alumnus from Peewee through Midget, was admittedly a late-bloomer both in dedication and stature as he eventually grew into his six-foot-five, 210 pound frame.
“I had more talent filling the water bottles than quarterbacking a powerplay,” said Malin, who now works as a design engineer in Calgary. “School for me, simply did not matter, as far as I was concerned I was going to be a professional hockey player.
“As the school years passed my focus on hockey remained constant. School consistently took a backseat as I did the very minimum to pass.”
He watched as teammates at the Peewee, Bantam and Midget level surpassed him despite what he thought was a staunch dedication to the sport.
“By Grade 9, I had developed a five-foot-five and 195-pound stature, which prevented me from being the most agile hockey player,” he said. “In the dressing room and class room I became the chubby friend that took nothing seriously and provided comedic relief.”
Malin wasn’t laughing when he was released from the Midget AA Oilers for two years in a row, facing a fork in the road in minor hockey.
“It came down to a decision to quit and try my hand at something new or do the work required to get myself to the next level. I decided to carry on,” he said. “I invested a lot of time and effort into off-ice training and had too much desire to give up.”
In his final year of minor hockey, Malin signed on as an affiliate after a successful first Junior camp. Unfortunately, tryouts for the UFA Midget AAA Bisons didn’t go as swimmingly, with Malin again being cut and plying his final year with the AA Oilers.
As fate would have it, an Oshawa Generals scout would serendipitously discover Malin and offer him an invite to pre-season camp with the Ontario Hockey League club.
“A scout had come to watch some other team, but had the wrong game time. Luckily enough he stuck around and I managed to grab his attention,” Malin said. “Unfortunately, after a couple weeks with the team I was the very last defenceman cut.”
After being released for the fifth time in his career, the rangy blueliner dusted himself off and caught on with the Langley Jr. A Hornets for one season, followed by two more with the Calgary Royals of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
He would earn an opportunity to play college hockey with the SAIT Trojans, but his trials and tribulations weren’t quite done yet.
“I found out that 13 players had been recruited for nine spots in my position. I had to do whatever it took to stay on the team or my hockey career would be over,” Malin said. “This included good grades, given the comparable talent level of everyone it would be only the minor details that would propel one player over another. I knew if I outworked everyone else on the ice and outperformed them in the classroom they would have to keep me around.”
The hard work paid off in spades. By the end of his rookie year he was on the top defence pair, had scored the game-winning goal for the national championship and maintained a 4.0 GPA.
Malin would continue to excel on and off the ice and was eventually named captain and student-athlete of the year during his senior campaign with the Trojans.
“Had it not been for my focus on hockey I am unsure I would have ever attended college, had I listened to the people that told me I would not have success I may not be speaking here in front of you,” Malin said. “I’m not saying that every player in this room should follow the same path that I did, but ask that you give yourself the opportunity to do so whether it is through hard work, desire or dedication.”