By Ross Forman
He learned to skate at age 5 at the YMCA in Elmhurst, and in his first hockey game, John Temple was stuck playing goalie and could barely skate.
“It was brutal … I can’t imagine how many I let in,” said Temple, laughing, who is now ready to wrap up his high school hockey career – and envisioning a skate at the United Center in his final game at York.
And the team captain, in jersey No. 90, is now a standout defenseman, about to finish his second varsity season.
“Playing at York has been the best four years of hockey in my life,” said Temps, as he is known to his teammates. “Playing for something bigger than yourself is pretty cool. Playing on Friday nights is always a great time. Freshman and sophomore years were a good time for myself to develop and become a better player. Last year was a tough year for us, but this year is totally different. Our team likes flying under the radar, and that could help us in the (state tournament).”
No. 9 York open state play on Sunday, March 3, against No. 8 Benet Academy, starting at 4:20 p.m., at the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville. The winner then faces either No. 1 New Trier Green, or the winner of Lake Forest/Notre Dame.
“(Playing at the UC), obviously it’s our goal to get there,” Temple said. “There are 20 guys in our locker room that have dreamed of that for years. The whole team knows that people have overlooked us all season, and we like that. Hopefully we can keep surprising teams to get there.
“We feel that were a bit under-rated at the beginning of the year, and we took that personally. We’ve been carrying that chip on our shoulder all year, and that’s our motivation to get to the UC.”
York went 10-10-0-1 in the Scholastic League regular-season, which tied the Dukes with Barrington for fourth-place in the eight-team league that is, arguably, the toughest in the state, as the teams ahead of York in the standings were perennial powers New Trier Green, Loyola Gold and Glenbrook North.
In the second-round of the Scholastic League playoffs on Feb. 21, the Dukes upset Green 5-2 in Wilmette in the first game of their best-of-three series. The Trevians answered the next night with a 3-2 victory in Addison. The deciding-game in the series is Feb. 24, starting at 5:30 p.m., at the North Shore Ice Arena in Northbrook.
“I think that we came out of the (regular-season) a little under-rated,” Temple said. “We lost some games that I thought that we could’ve won. We have been really close all year to beating Loyola Gold and Glenbrook North, but the bounces never went our way. But as the season went on, we started to win some big games. I think once we beat Stevenson, it really helped us from a confidence standpoint. After that, our biggest wins have come (against) Glenbrook North and New Trier Green, which is a huge confidence booster for us. Coming into (the league playoff series against) New Trier Green, they’ve had our number. I think they beat us five times (this season), but once we beat them in the first game of the SHL playoffs, it gave us a lot of momentum moving forward.
“We are a deeper team than we were last year. Billy Paschen and Chris Lee have led the way in points, but there are a lot of younger kids on our team who could shine in the playoffs and the years to come. Thomas Wesolowski has been phenomenal all year, especially being the only goalie on a varsity team, and along with our defense being very solid throughout the whole year.”
Lee, a defenseman, and Paschen, a forward, have certainly been the noteworthy names on the York roster – and both earned All-SHL 1st Team honors. York coach Bruce Turpin also was named SHL Coach of the Year.
Paschen led the team with 9 goals, 19 assists (28 points) in 21 SHL regular-season games. Lee had 16 goals, 6 assists in 20 games.
Temple had 8 assists during the SHL regular-season.
Temple, 17, lives in Elmhurst and is undecided on his college plans. He previously played for the Chicago Blues and won a state championship in 2015.
His primary defensive partner this season is Anthony Baran, a senior in his third season on varsity.
“Winning the West Cup (during my) freshman year was awesome, just because we brought the program to a place it’s never been,” Temple said. “Being a part of bringing York to the SHL was also a big thing for me. It was a big step forward for our program, and I feel that playing in this league for our third year has been huge.”
Temple is one of four main leaders for York, along with Lee, Paschen and Joseph Guerino.
“I think we’ve helped lead the team in the right direction,” Temple said. “Chris tends to be more of the vocal leader because he is the captain, and Joseph, Billy, and I (as alternate captains) have been leading by example. To have three other guys around me that want to get to the UC as bad as I do, the boys have really hit the ground running.”
Temple is a puck-moving defenseman who admits he “likes to jump into the play when I can … I like to join the rush and create opportunities.”
Temple’s career was directly impacted by Joe Fenzel, his first coach and freshman year JV coach, he said. “He was the one that made me fall in love with the game.”
Slapshots With … York Defenseman John Temple
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL player: Jack Eichel
Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Golf
Favorite Pro Athlete: Tiger Woods
Favorite app: Snapchat
Favorite TV Show: The Office
Favorite Sports Movie: Dodgeball
Hardest Slapshot on York: Chris Lee
Most Accurate Shot on York: Billy Paschen
Fastest Skater on York: Chris Lee
Teammate Who Would Make a Great Coach: Billy Paschen
Best High School Jersey (other than York): Glenbrook North
Worst High School Jersey: Fenwick
Jersey No. 90: “It was the only jersey left when I started and I’ve stuck with it.”
Being an Alternate Captain: “It’s an honor … you look at all of the great players that have been a captain before me, it really shows how much of an honor it really is.”
Most Memorable Game: “Beating Providence Catholic at home last year because they were coming off a trip to the UC and I’ve never seen so many people at Addison Ice. This past Friday night was up there against New Trier Green. The rink had an energy it hasn’t had in a long time.”
Most Memorable Goal: “My first varsity goal … it was (against St. Ignatius and) their goalie used to (be a teammate).”
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.