IT RUNS IN THE STEP-FAMILY
Fedotenko serves as a mentor for stepson, who plays at University of Denver
Larkin Jacobson grew up in a hockey family.
His grandfather played college hockey.
His older brothers both play hockey. He played with brother Derek on the Janesville Jets in the North American Hockey League.
So, when Larkin was recruited to play at the University of Denver, one of the top collegiate hockey programs in the country, Jacobson moved ever-closer to his dream of playing in the NHL.
Of course, he’s been living that dream vicariously through his stepfather for the past 15 years.
“I met him when he was eight, and he was already playing hockey,” said Flyers forward Ruslan Fedotenko, who met Jacobson’s mother Debbie while playing for the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League in 1998-99. “So I don’t think I’ve had an influence on his love of the sport, but we have talked a lot over the years about the path he would take in his career.”
Fedotenko eventually married Debbie and became a constant presence in the lives of her sons Kyle, Larkin and Derek.
“I was just starting out in the sport really when I met him,” Larkin Jacobson said. “So having him around all the time and just knowing someone of his caliber was awesome.”
Fedotenko had all three boys workout with him in the offseason. He taught them the level of commitment necessary to play the sport they love at a high level.
Kyle, who Fedotenko said was an immensely talented player, gave up hockey to focus on getting a degree in college. Derek is playing Division III hockey at St. Thomas in Minnesota.
But Larkin has taken it farther than any of the three boys, playing Division I for a major program – and he credits the work with Fedotenko for getting where he is right now.
“He motivates you to keep working harder and harder and harder,” Jacobson said. “He will critique you too, but he does it in such a way that you can’t help but learn from what he says – I mean, he’s an NHL player who has won two Stanley Cups, so it’s an opinion worth listening to.”
It’s no coincidence that Larkin’s game is so similar to Fedotenko’s. Just a sophomore at Denver, Jacobson, 21, is more of a depth forward who is smart, gritty, and reliable in his own end of the ice.
In 22 games with the Pioneers this season Jacobson has five goals and two assists for seven points.
“He’s doing really well there,” Fedotenko said. “He loves the school. He loves the team. He’s having a great experience.”
Fedotenko said he gets a chance to watch Jacobson online or during the occasional game broadcast on the NBC Sports Network and said that he often talks to him after games about how things are going, but Fedotenko said he doesn’t try to coach Jacobson from afar – because it wouldn’t go over well – and instead simply offers support.
“At his age he believes he knows everything,” Fedotenko said kiddingly. “But I just talk to him more to check in on him. The hockey stuff is great, but we’re really proud of him because he is doing so well in school and that’s the most important thing to us.”
Jacobson switched majors this year from biological studies to business and he is thriving in school, which is sure to set him up for his post-collegiate career if hockey doesn’t work out.
However, Jacobson is going to test those waters first.
“Playing at Denver is a whole new level of competition,” Jacobson said. “From juniors to here is night and day. This is a faster pace with a quicker learning curve. I’m playing with kids that are so talented and that helps me to improve my game and motivate me to get better.”
The Denver roster is chock full of prospects and familiar hockey names.
Leading scorer Nick Shore is a third round pick of the Los Angeles Kings. Defenseman Joey Laleggia is a fifth round choice of the Edmonton Oilers. Defenseman Nolan Zajac is the younger brother of New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac. Forward Ty Loney is the son of former NHLer Troy Loney, who won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins in the 1990s.
So the team has some cache. Although Loney’s two Stanley Cups don’t particularly impress Jacobson.
That’s because Fedotenko has won the Cup twice himself – in 2004 as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning and in 2009 with the Penguins,
Both years, the Cup came down to Game 7 victories. Jacobson remembers them both fondly.
“In Tampa we were at Game 7 and it was awesome,” Jacobson said. “[Fedotenko] scored two goals – one was the game-winner – and we won the Cup. We got to spend time with the Cup. [Fedotenko] took it for a day to the Ukraine, but he got a second day with it and we took it to our home in Sioux City and had a huge party that was a lot of fun.
“ The second cup came when My brother and I were living in Pittsburgh and playing youth hockey there. We were in the middle of a tryout, hopped a plane and flew to Detroit for Game 7. After the celebration we flew back to finish the tryout, but there was no way we were going to miss such an experience as a Game 7 in the Finals. When we got the cup for a day this time, we took it up to a vacation spot in Wisconsin for a much smaller celebration.”
And one day, Jacobson would love to hoist the Cup on his own. But he knows that may never happen.
“I’m not really sure what lies ahead for me,” he said. “I’d love to play hockey and chase the dream for a bit. I ‘ll see what kind of offers are on the table. Education is just as important as hockey. Right now business finance… not sure what I’d like to do … maybe be a sports agent.
I’m having too much fin right now to even think about that though. We’ll figure it out later.
And it’s almost certain Fedotenko will have some sage advice on the subject for his stepson.
“He’s realistic,” Fedotenko said. “He’s a smart kid. He wasn’t drafted. If he doesn’t end up playing hockey he’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to pursue.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37