Skokie Midget Major U18 Center Shines at Northside College Prep
By Ross Forman
Jack Mullen was 6 years-old when his best friend showed him how to shoot while in his basement, and they soon turned it into a game, trying to break plastic bins that they were shooting at.
“It was awesome,” Mullen recalls, years later.
At 7, he learned how to skate and started shooting on the ice.
“I loved everything about the game from the beginning – from the sound of skates crunching the ice to the icy smell of the rink,” Mullen said. “My first (hockey) game, I was much smaller than anyone. I probably fell down way too many times and took shifts that were way too long.”
Flash-forward to today. Mulley, as he is known, sports jersey No. 77 in tribute to his dad’s first firehouse engine number for the Skokie Midget Major U18 team. The right-handed shooting Mullen plays center and is in his fourth season skating at Skokie. He previously played for the Chicago Bulldogs.
Mullen, 17, lives in Chicago and is a junior at Northside College Prep.
“We have a very strong, deep offense, but our defense is lacking the numbers. Our goalies and players are getting injured, as we have lost two for the season to concussions and one (due to) a knee (injury),” Mullen said. “Our coaches push us a good amount and we are fairly good at executing our game plans. We are winning a lot more NIHL games this year.
“We have a lot of chemistry this year and there are never any disagreements or fights among the team. We have good shots and cycles inside the offensive zone and good speed through the middle of the ice. For the most part, we play strong simple hockey.”
Last season while skating for Skokie, things were much different, he admitted.
“There was a lot of arguing among players. Some of the guys yelled and were very authoritative unnecessarily because they were older, which didn’t help at all. We had a lot more grind last year and our offense and defense were both reliable and strong.”
Last season, his Skokie team even tied New Trier Blue.
Also last season, his Skokie team defeated the Bloomington Thunder midseason and Mullen’s penalty-kill line shut down the Thunder and scored a shorthanded goal to help secure the victory.
And, Skokie defeated Naperville Central, 5-2…with 4 goals from Mullen.
“I am a slippery player and don’t often get pinned on the boards,” Mullen said. “I’m more of a playmaker, as I work the puck down low and roll out of cycles a lot. I like to skate the puck through the neutral zone and set up the offense rather than just dump and chase. I drive hard to the net and usually get a pass off in front. I score about half my goals within 15 feet of the net, and the other half are just net crashes.”
Mullen said his uncle (JJ) has been a hockey influence. “He taught me a lot when I was little and gave me great advice whenever he saw my games. He taught me a lot about positioning on the ice. My two best friends, Timmy and Will, are also hockey players, and we are always trying to find some kind of ice to get out on. We always push one another, even when it is just for fun. My dad has built a rink in our backyard for the past six years and he has always helped me if I wanted to get some more ice (time).”
Mullen’s dedication on the ice carries into the classroom, where he truly is the epitome of a student-athlete.
He has only had one “B” in high school…everything else has been an “A.”
The lone “B” came sophomore year, first semester, in AP physics. “It was just one of those things where you go into the tests thinking you know everything and then you are blindsided by the questions,” Mullen recalled. “Fortunately, I was able to learn from my experience and get the grade up the next semester.”
When asked how he has maintained such good grades while being a three-sport athlete (baseball and soccer), Mullen simply said, “I do a lot of homework.”
“On some weekends I’m doing eight hours of homework in a library somewhere,” he said. “I take good notes in class and pay attention for the most part. I do what I have to do to get by, and then when the tests come, I study a lot.”
Mullen said his favorite subject is, AP microeconomics. “I like knowing how the economy works and how people react in it, and my teacher makes the class very interesting,” he said.
His most difficult subject in school was, and likely always will be, AP physics. “I just am not good at understanding the concepts, even though I should, considering it has to do a lot with hockey,” he said.
Mullen is a member of the National Honor Society.
Mullen is a soccer center midfielder, loaded with skill. His team was 16-1-1 at one point.
Baseball at Northside, on the other hand, hasn’t done as well. “We try, but never make it very far in our endeavors,” said Mullen, a baseball catcher and second base who bats fifth.
Baseball and soccer help him for hockey.
“It really is the best of both worlds, because put together, they help with my hands and feet. Footwork is essential in hockey, and my lateral movement and puck control with my feet is quite good because of soccer. Baseball has helped me with my hand-to-eye coordination with the puck and keeping it on my stick.”
Even his studious ways helps him on the ice.
“I am able to slow the play down and read the ice a little more. It helps (to) see what the best option is and react quickly to changes in movement on the ice,” he said.
Mullen’s on-ice game is also aided by being a talented juggler, he said.
“I can do tricks with balls and pins, love practicing card magic, and oddly enough am pretty good at different voice impersonations and accents,” said Mullen, who also has caddied in Evanston for four years, even though he is, admittedly, a “terrible” golfer.
Mullen is on the parish council at Queen of All Saints and is a leading peer minister for the parish’s youth group.
Around the Rink with Jack Mullen
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Andrew Shaw
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Rugby
Favorite Pro Athlete: Marian Hossa
More Marian Hossa: “He is always strong on his stick and generates a lot of goal-scoring opportunities. I also love his 110 percent effort every shift and how he back-checks the hardest.”
Favorite App: Snapchat
Favorite TV Show: Hawaii Five-O
Favorite Sports Movie: Sandlot
Dream Job: Being an orthopedic surgeon
College: Still undecided, but is looking at schools on the East Coast and in the Midwest.
Time-management Tip: “Get everything done early on, and if you know you are going to procrastinate, take a nap so you aren’t tired when you do it later.”
Hardest Slapshot on Your Team (excluding yourself): Ted Fludas
Teammate Who Someday Will Make A Great Coach: Scott Deja – “He makes up his own systems, knows every stat about the sport, and is a nice guy.”
Best Local and/or High School Jersey (other than Skokie): Lane Tech
Worst Local and/or High School Jersey (other than Skokie): Rockford, as it “has palm trees and Hawaiian flowers…it’s just brutal.”
**All photos courtesy of Jack Mullen**
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.