By Ross Forman
When Lane Tech revived its hockey program a couple of years ago, it was a teacher at the school who also carried the title of coach.
Jason Newman skated in this summer and took over the reigns as the team’s new head coach.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to come in and change the culture of the program,” he said. “We’re an entirely new program from the ground up with a new board, new coaches, new uniforms and we’re playing in a new conference.”
Newman, 40, who lives in Chicago and works as a commercial litigation attorney, and also as a real estate broker, brings a wealth of hockey roots, most in this market.
He was a mite playing for the Niles Rangers in 1980. Following that season, he started playing for Glenview, where he was a forward for the remainder of his youth hockey career, which included a brief stint on the JV team as a sophomore at Glenbrook South, then as a junior on the varsity at Suffield Academy in Connecticut.
“I’m fortunate to have always had an intense passion for the game as a player, student, and fan, and have been connected to it in one way or another for the majority of my life,” Newman said. “As an undergraduate at the University of Denver, I interned in the front office of the Colorado Avalanche (in) 1996. I also worked with a player agent and represented some minor league players during law school.
“I always wanted to get into coaching, and five years ago I was offered the opportunity to be an assistant coach with the Chicago Young Americans Bantam ‘97s, alongside Doug Altschul and Jimmy Xintaris, both of whom are among my closest childhood friends from Glenbrook South. They’re both two of the top skills coaches in Chicago, and I use them as my skills coaches for our program at Lane.”
Newman also has been the JV head coach at St. Ignatius, which he said was “a very positive experience.” However, Newman and his wife were expecting their second daughter shortly after the season ended, and he had a very heavy caseload at the time, so he decided to step away from coaching.
He returned, with Lane Tech, this past July — where he’s received tremendous support from club president Tom Merkel, and Lane Tech Athletic Director, Brian Hofman. “Each of them want to see the program succeed and we’re all working together to make sure we eventually attain that level of success, and take our program to the next level,” he said.
“As a (native) Chicagoan, it never made sense to me that almost all of the suburban high schools had hockey teams, but high schools in the city (of Chicago) did not,” Newman said. “I believe that kids in the city should be afforded the same opportunity to play high school hockey as kids in the suburbs. There are several benefits players receive from representing their high school that travel/club teams simply can’t offer. We’re a combined program that is made up of students from Lane Tech, Taft, DePaul Prep and Northside Prep. On one sleeve of our jerseys there’s a patch with the logo of all of the schools that feed into our program. On the other sleeve is the flag of the City of Chicago. I feel it’s important that the kids to recognize that they’re not only representing their school, but the city in which they all reside.”
Lane Tech switched to the IHSHL North Central Division this season, which Newman said, “is a perfect fit for us as there is a pre-season tiering round which determines what divisions each team will compete in during the regular season.”
Lane Tech is one of 25 varsity programs in the North Central, “and it’s a great environment for us as we’ll play teams of a similar talent level this year and we’ll be able to compete against tougher teams in the future, as we continue to improve,” Newman said.
The majority of Lane Tech’s home games this season will be played at The Edge, however, the Indians also will play out of Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood and McFetridge Ice Rink (in Chicago).
“The biggest challenge for us this year has been ice, so I’ll buy ice wherever I can just to get the kids out there,” Newman said. “I’m hopeful that with the two rinks the Blackhawks are building that will free up some slots so that high school hockey in the city can flourish in the future.”
Newman’s wife is a Chicago Public School teacher and they both are strong supporters and in the CPS system. So, “the prospect of coaching a team that’s made up of virtually entirely Chicago Public School students was very intriguing to me,” he said. “I live a mile from Lane and saw this as an opportunity to contribute to our community, while doing something I love. I can’t think of anywhere that would be a better fit for me and it’s an honor for me to be associated with the schools that make up our program.”
Newman is driven to make Lane Tech’s team “an attractive destination for all potential players who attend our schools,” he said. “If we’re able to do that, and maintain a level of consistency, I think the future (looks) bright.”
Lane Tech has a varsity and JV team this season, with a total of 33 players in the program – and only six of them are upper classmen (2 seniors, 4 juniors).
The varsity is mostly freshmen and sophomores.
“While this year can certainly be considered a rebuilding year, we’re not focusing on how young we are,” Newman said. “We can complain about things out of our control like our youth, injuries, etc., but at the end of the day, none of it matters. The things we can control are our attitudes and the amount of effort we put forth. If those two things are where they need to be, then I know we’ll be happy with the results.”
As of Oct. 2, the team was 3-2 in conference play, 3-4 overall.
“We have a great group of kids. They’re a hard working bunch who have a desire to learn and get better. When we work hard and play a disciplined, defensive brand of hockey, we’ve been successful,” Newman said.
Lane is led by seniors Max Balster and Will Herbert, and junior Maxwell Yoshida-Gordon.
Lane has three goalies rostered on the varsity, including junior Max Karlenzig and sophomore Emily Jorgensen, who has seen the bulk of the action thus far. She was the JV goalie last year as a freshman. “She has a strong work ethic and very high competitive level,” Newman said. “Coaching her has been a delight as it’s evident that she loves to play the game. She’s been the winning goalie for all three of our (early) wins so far. Max Karlenzig will share some of the action with Jorgensen, but he’s also rostered on the Skokie Flyers Midget team, so we don’t have him all the time.”
- The Best Fans (This Week) Award goes to Warren, as the contingent in Gurnee for a game against New Trier White featured about 10 students with those orange street pylons, which certainly aided their cheering. However, the Trevians triumphed, 3-0, on goals by Peter Lifvendahl, Ben Armour and Henry Freedman.
- It’s going to be a long season for the co-op LZMW junior varsity, comprised of players from Lake Zurich, Mundelein and Wauconda. The team lost 6-1 to Carmel on Oct. 1, and was outshot 43-3 – and Carmel quickly pulled the dogs off what could have been a very ugly game. Jared Bacani had two goals and an assist. Charlie Desgagne had two goals. Avery Schaub had the lone LZMW goal on assists from Brett Rothas and Ryan O’Connel. Vincent Bartell had the first shot on goal for LZMW – in the third period.
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.