Jets rookie picks No. 55 to honour older brother
KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
|Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele waits for a pass during practice in Winnipeg Monday October 03, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Mark Scheifele had a big decision to make, so naturally he consulted with his older brother.
By the time the conversation was over, Scheifele had decided to salute Kyle by wearing No. 55 this season with the Winnipeg Jets.
After hinting on Monday that he’d be dropping 45 for something else, Scheifele was sporting his new digits on his helmet during practice on Wednesday.
“My brother wore it and he was my role model growing up,” the 18-year-old centre explained on Tuesday. “He was two years older than me and I modeled everything after him. It was one of the numbers available, so I thought I could share it with him too. That’s the main thing behind it.
“He was such a big supporter of me and he helped me in hockey so much. He could teach me what he learned two years ahead of time. He’s one of my biggest fans, so I wanted to give this tribute to him. He kind of gave me the work ethic I have because I was always striving to try to be better than him and I tried to beat him in everything. I don’t know if he taught me one good lesson, they were all good lessons. We were best friends growing up and he’s still an inspiration for me.”
Scheifele also considered 7 and 21 but ultimately thought 55 was a better fit.
Kyle Scheifele was a pretty good hockey player in his own right, but he’s currently studying electrical engineering at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont.
“He still plays hockey three times a week and still loves the game,” Mark said. “In the summer, we shoot pucks together and we’ll dangle in the basement and stuff like that. He’s a good hockey player, but he had other priorities. He was big into volleyball and basketball. He’s still got the moves and it’s cool to play with him and shoot around with him.”
How did his older brother respond when Scheifele told him the news?
“When I said I was going to take 55, he said ‘oh you’re copying me again,’” said Mark, noting his brother, sister and parents will all be in attendance Sunday when the Jets host the Montreal Canadiens and were planning to spend a few days in the city prior to the game. “I knew I wasn’t going to stick with 45.”
Scheifele’s favourite number is 19, but that’s being worn by veteran Jim Slater — who actually switched to the number as a tribute to his favourite player growing up, longtime Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman.
Scheifele never considered talking to Slater about trying to work out a deal to acquire the number. He was also adamant that he wasn’t going to wear the No. 10 made famous by former Jet Dale Hawerchuk, who coached Scheifele with the Barrie Colts last season.
Three other players on the Jets roster decided to switch numbers on Tuesday as well.
Winnipegger Derek Meech switched from 47 to 7, Kenndal McArdle moved from 40 to 23 and Aaron Gagnon has gone from 42 to 21.
“I haven’t been in single digits for a while,” Meech said.