David Jankowski never struggled finding someone to give him hockey advice.
Whenever he lost his way, all he had to do was walk down the hall and talk to his father. Len Jankowski played three years at Cornell and was a pro player in Denmark.
Dad not around?
Dial up Grandpa Lou, who played 130 National Hockey League games for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks in the Original Six era.
Grandpa Lou’s pro career included 12 years in the old Western Hockey League, which back in the day was nearly on par with the NHL.
He was also a longtime scout.
But the very best piece of advice David ever got came from Great Uncle Red.
“Just have fun playing, don’t lose your love for the game and don’t take it too seriously,” David recalled. “He told me it’s not worth doing if you’re not having fun, which means a lot coming from someone who has so much experience.
“It’s a nice reminder because sometimes hockey feels like it’s more of a business than a sport.”
And what made Great Uncle Red such an authority, other than 89 years of accumulated wisdom?
Eight Stanley Cup rings and a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame enough?
David’s Great Uncle Red is none other than Leonard Patrick ‘Red’ Kelly, the red-headed superstar of Original Six lore.
Kelly won four Cups with the Red Wings and four more with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is considered hockey royalty and David has his ear whenever he wants it.
“It’s unique to have that kind of background, and I think the writing was on the wall from the moment that I was born that I was going to play hockey,” David said. “I’ve always been around the game and it’s cool that I’m able to explore my family’s history in hockey.
“And he came out to watch me play a couple years ago, which was really neat.”
As if David needed anyone else in his corner, he has one more fantastic resource to draw upon.
Twenty-one year old brother Mark Jankowski was a first round pick of the Calgary Flames in the 2012 NHL entry draft, and may make his big-league debut this season.
Perhaps more than anyone else, including Great Uncle Red, Mark can counsel David on the ups and downs of hockey.
When the Flames picked him 21st overall in 2012, the selection was considered a reach and Mark struggled with oversized expectations.
But he kept at it through four years at Providence University and recently signed an entry level NHL contract.
“I can’t learn enough from Mark, who’s been my biggest supporter and inspiration,” David said. “He was drafted before some people thought he would, but he was never fazed by it.”
“He’s the epitome of sticking to the plan and it goes to show you should trust in yourself and be your own biggest supporter.”
“It’s been awesome to see what he’s done.”
David will certainly need support as he jumps into junior A hockey after spending one year at Salisbury School in Connecticut.
He’s one of four Crimson Knights joining the Chiefs this year along with Tom Lee, Anthony Vincent and Cole Poliziani. The Salisbury pipeline sent Vimal Sukumaran and Kale Kane to the Chiefs last year.
“Our coach at Salisbury really, really likes the Chilliwack program and likes sending players here,” David said. “When I was making a decision on where to play junior, he had nothing but good things to say.”
Jankowski visited Chilliwack during last spring’s BCHL playoffs, spending a week with the team.
“I really loved it here and I think at that point it was clear I wanted to play here.”
Describing himself as a playmaking forward with a strong two-way game and high hockey IQ, David expects/hopes to have an immediate impact.
Consistency will be his biggest challenge as he adapts to the BCHL grind.
“Coming from prep, it’s a 25 game season where here it’s closer to 60,” David said. “You don’t get as much rest, so my focus will be on preparation and being ready to play day in and day out.”
Those BCHL road trips will be eye opening for the rookie, who faced much easier travel at Salisbury.
“I think we only stayed at one or two hotels last year and it was just a one-night thing, so that’ll be a bit different,” David said. “But before Salisbury I did play at a prep school in Quebec where the road trips were a lot longer.”
He’ll look to hit the ice running and put his best skate forward at the BCHL Showcase. He wants an NCAA scholarship and thinks the BCHL is the best place to be.
“Besides winning a championship for Chilliwack, my big focus is getting a scholarship to division-one hockey,” he said. “Since last year I’ve been talking to a few schools, most in the Northeastern US area, and I’m still looking at options.”
“The Showcase offers exposure to some of the western schools and it’s a great opportunity to be seen.”