By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
BOISE, Idaho – Most Idaho hockey fans know Jeremy Mylymok as the veteran Steelheads defenseman who is playing his sixth year in Boise. Others know him as an ambassador for youth hockey in the Treasure Valley.
Not many know Mylymok as a California surfer dude, right out of a scene from the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
But that’s how he describes his years when he was growing up in Newport Beach, Calif.
“I spent more time on the sand than in the rink,” Mylymok said. “I spent a lot of time surfing, golfing, skateboarding. … I was the typical California kid. My brothers and I all had the long, white hair.
“So it was pretty funny that way. You’re with all these guys who are like Spicoli and you’re lacing up the skates one day and surfing the next.”
Mylymok has come a long way from those days on the California beaches.
Now 34, he is playing his 11th year as a professional. After serving time as an assistant coach under former Steelheads coach John Olver and playing in only 15 games last season, Mylymok has returned to the ice full time this season.
His new coach, Derek Laxdal, said Mylymok has served his role on the ice to a tee this season.
“He’s not going to do anything flashy,” Laxdal said. “He’s not going to skate the puck end to end. He’s not going to have 15 hits a game, because his body just won’t allow him to do that. But he knows how to play within his means.”
The numbers support that. His experience and presence on the ice have allowed him to post a plus-minus rating of +13 heading into this weekendís games.
But even Mylymok wasn’t sure he was ready for the grind of another season after being away from the game for most of last year.
“The first five or 10 games, I was like, ‘Whoa! Did I make the right decision here?’ But as the season goes along you’re more comfortable with the puck,” said Mylymok, who has served as Idaho captain for three years. “… Now it’s to the point where it’s nice to contribute a little bit at both ends of the ice.”
His body has held up for the most part, too. He missed his first game of the season Wednesday night with a hip flexor injury.
“As an older player, there’s always a question if you can handle the grind, so one of my goals was to play every game this year,” Mylymok said. “It was frustrating (to sit out Wednesday), but that’s part of the game, too.”
Mylymok knows that his body won’t be able to take the wear and tear of hockey for years to come. He’s indicated that he knows his career is winding down, but he’s not ready to make a definitive decision and make this season a farewell tour.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” Mylymok said. “I just want to enjoy this season. It’s in the back of your mind, and every once in a while it gets brought up. You never want to say it’s your last season because you never know what tomorrow brings.
“But at age 34, you do want to start looking toward your future,” he said. “I’ve got some plans to set my family up after hockey if this is my last season. Let’s put it that way.”
Laxdal, a former NHL player, has talked to Mylymok about enjoying the twilight of his playing days.
“The big thing is, when you’re coming to the end of your career, your love of the game intensifies,” Laxdal said. “When you’re in the dressing room, there’s such a camaraderie. They’re you’re family. If it is your last year, then that magnifies it.”
Mylymok played five seasons for Olver, and it was a bit of a shock when his coach stepped aside in the offseason. But that has proven to be a blessing in disguise because he’s been able to observe two different coaching styles.
“(Olver) had done it for a long time and was kind of ‘his way or the highway,’ ” Mylymok said. “If other teams adapted to us, he wouldn’t change. He would just say we need to do what we’re doing better. And Derek’s the kind of guy that’s not afraid to make changes mid-period.
“For me, it’s been good to watch both guys. It’s been a good learning experience for me.”
And Mylymok doesn’t keep what he’s learned over the years to himself. He runs youth hockey camps in Boise and McCall and doesn’t see his role with young players diminishing.
“My goal is to bring youth hockey to the next level in Boise, Idaho,” he said. “Whatever I can do to help youth hockey develop is one of my goals after I get done playing.”
Ah, there it is again. More talk about the end of his career. Steelheads fans may or may not be seeing the end of Mylymok’s playing days, which include a championship in the now-defunct International Hockey League while he was playing with the Chicago Wolves and a Kelly Cup victory while with the Steelheads in 2004.
But if this is the final season of his career, Mylymok said the ride has been that much sweeter because he’s been able to take his sons, Connor, 5, and Luke, 4, along with him, and he’s watched them grow into hockey fans.
“They know what’s going on, they talk about the game now,” Mylymok said. “Last year, they were more excited about coming down and getting a gumball after the game. … But now, they’re big fans, getting high-fives after the game.
“It’s been a blast for me … Now they come to the rink and know what Dad does.”