Like a lot of kids in Warroad, Jayson Shaugabay grew up on skates, with a hockey stick in his hand.
“Ever since I was, like, one and a half, I had skates on, so pretty much my whole life. I was always at the rink, all day, had my gear on for hours and hours,” he said. “I don't think there's a better place in the world than Warroad to play hockey."
When he tries to describe Shaugabay, Warroad head coach Jay Hardwick often returns to one word, special.
His passing skills are remarkable, Hardwick said, and the 17-year-old senior understands the game at a level far beyond most players his age.
“They might do stuff when they're just at the rink messing around. But a lot of those things that kids think about doing but maybe don't, Jayson has the skills and the confidence to do that when we're playing,” said Hardwick.
“Not everybody can do it. So I think it's kind of just a natural ability and a lot of work at it.”
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A gift for the game
Jayson's dad Darrell “Son” Shaugabay is a familiar face in Warroad hockey. He played on the high school team in the 1980s and he's coached various levels of the sport for 37 years. He’s now an assistant high school coach. His commitment to helping kids is rooted in his early experience in Warroad.
“I came from a single mother family and I got to play hockey and didn't worry about where my next stick came from or my skates or travel. I was taken care of,” he recalled.
A few years ago he realized Jayson has a gift for the game.
“When he got to be probably age 14 or 15, if I'm being honest, he was thinking the game at a higher level than I could, and I mean that in a complimentary way, he was seeing things that I couldn't even see, and I've been around the game for a long time,” said Son.
Jayson Shaugabay attributes his success to hours spent on the ice with his friends practicing and just having fun with the game.
His dad points out he also spends hours watching videos of the best hockey players and taking what he learns to the rink.
‘Just don't be cocky’
The hard work and natural feel for the game helped him surpass the Warroad points record set in 2005 by T.J. Oshie, who now plays in the National Hockey League. He broke Oshie’s record of 241 points during a Jan. 7 game against Fergus Falls.
“I mean, I don't really try to think about it too much as being a big deal, but I mean it kind of is a big deal,” said Shaugabay. “I just feel very grateful and honored that I was able to beat T.J. Oshie’s record.”
Off the ice, Jayson is engaging and polite but still learning to feel comfortable in the spotlight.
He credits his parents with teaching him the importance of humility.
“I mean, just don't be cocky, don't be that person,” he said. “I'll be honest, I don't like talking about myself, I don't like hyping myself up.”
Shaugabay hastens to add he doesn’t mind doing interviews. He knows it’s part of the game. “But I just don't like when people are like, tell me about yourself, you know, tell me how you're this good. I'm like, I'm not that good.”
His dad is as proud of Jayson’s demeanor as he is of his hockey success.
“In the athletic world, I learned a long time ago that if you're good, you don't have to talk about yourself, or your parents don't have to talk about you, everybody else will,” said Son Shaugabay.
“As a parent, it's really nice to see that he's learned how to be humble and kind and generous and caring and all those other wonderful things that humans should be.”
Part of a long history
Son and Jayson are enrolled members of the White Earth Nation.
Warroad has a long history of Native American hockey stars, most recently T.J. Oshie, and the legendary Henry Boucha in the 1960s and 1970s.
Jayson is proud of his Ojibwe heritage and proud to wear the Warriors logo on his jersey. He's one of five Native American players on the team this year, and there are also the family connections.
His dad and his half-brother Dane are assistant coaches. Jayson plays on the same line as his nephew, Carson Pilgrim, a junior. They’ve played together since they first learned to skate and they’re the top two scorers on the team this year.
Son Shaugabay said it’s a proud heritage, but in Warroad, being Native does not define who you are.
“First of all he's Jayson, and he's a skilled hockey player and he happens to have Native American blood in him. It's not ‘the next great Native American’, it's just Jayson, a good hockey player and he's Native too,” said Son. "Hockey and Natives have always been in Warroad for as long as it has been, and there's not many communities that can say that in our state.”
For the next few weeks, Jayson Shaugabay is focused on bringing a state hockey championship to Warroad. When the high school season ends he’ll join the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.
He's committed to play college hockey at the University of Minnesota Duluth and he said it would be a dream to represent the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, but his ultimate goal is a successful career in the National Hockey League.