Despite different paths, Fishman and Horberg lead rejuvenated Highland Park
By Ross Forman – Jack Fishman and Tyler Horberg are a true testament to friendship, never pre-judging a teammate on his skill-level, or limited thereof.
Fishman, 17, is a 3-year Highland Park varsity defenseman, but it’s been anything but a smooth, standout, successful journey. He played house league hockey for the Falcons for most of his career, as he was repeatedly cut from travel teams.
But those failures “built a lot of character for me,” Fishman said.
He finally made a travel team (Falcons silver) in eighth grade, but that joy was silenced the following season when he landed on the Giants’ second JV team. “Devastated, I found myself not making the team I wanted, though I was once again taught the lesson that it is vital to work hard and to always know that there are no guarantees,” he said.
Fishman said that his freshman season was, in the end, “one of my favorite seasons of hockey.” He improved dramatically.
As a sophomore, Fishman landed on the HP varsity.
Meanwhile, Horberg was winning State and National Championships as the captain of his Central States Falcons team.
“Being able to compare our hockey careers and play together for our senior year is very special,” Fishman said. “Tyler’s ability to share his wisdom on the game to the rest of the team is amazing. Every player that Tyler surrounds himself with automatically improves and it is a beautiful thing to watch. Tyler helps everyone; everyone benefits from him.
“Though I was never on the best teams, I think my own journey with hockey is a great mix with Tyler. Having such different journeys, then coming together in our final year makes for an amazing, indescribable connection on the ice.”
Horberg, 18, a senior, is in his first season on the Giants’ varsity after years of elite-level club play, sporting uniform No. 7 – the same number that his older brother wore for Highland Park.
Horberg, a left-handed shooting left wing, previously played for the Falcons and Chicago Young Americans. He’s played in front of 8,000-plus fans at the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament and won a 14U Tier II National Championship with the Falcons.
Horberg is, without question, one of the main reasons Highland Park is optimistic that this will be one of the school’s best seasons in years.
“It’s an honor to represent my community and play for my high school,” Horberg said.
“It’s amazing to skate with my best friend. Jack looks to me for advice and I am always happy to help. He will come to me with questions and I can see him really trying to improve and expand his game. Jack has worked hard to improve his skills to be able to make varsity. He started as a house league player and was determined to get to where he is now.”
Fishman is the Highland Park captain, though unlike Horberg, he rarely sees his name and number on the scoresheet.
“I always knew I wanted to play for the Giants,” Horberg said. “We come from vastly different coaches and styles of play, but that is what makes our team so unique. Jack is one of my most loyal and best friends. We have known each other since first-grade and have been great friends ever since.”
The bond between Fishman and Horberg was formed away from the rink, solidified on the ice.
Fishman said that skating with Horberg “is like skating with no other player in the state – he is humble, and his hockey IQ is exceptional.”
Fishman added: “Due to his experience playing AAA and AA hockey for CYA and Falcons, Tyler always has something to bring to the table. I am constantly talking and watching Tyler play and, as a result, my ability to get rid of bad habits and to use his advice has skyrocketed.”
Fishman, for instance, said this season he has been taking he best angle possible and maintaining good gap control – which Horberg helped him learn.
“Tyler has been one of my best friends for all of high school,” Fishman said. “We went to overnight camp together in Wisconsin and were always looking forward to being in high school with one another. When the time came, our friendship sprouted. I could not imagine what I would be like without Tyler and the uncountable amount of memories we’ve shared.”
Fishman, in uniform No. 45, is one of the reasons that the Giants have lofty goals, ones that HP has not realistically discussed in years. The Giants want to win state and win the North-Central Division playoffs – and of course beat Deerfield every time they play their arch-rival.
“Playing for my school is spectacular,” Fishman said, “As a kid, I used to always go watch my babysitter, who played for the Highland Park varsity team. His games were fascinating as I had never seen so much talent from a team besides the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Now walking through the hallways of school with my jersey on, playing for that same team is one of the coolest things. Plus, having the student body and all my friends at big games always gives me a great feeling, especially after a win.”
There’s pride just wearing the Giants’ jersey – and plenty of joy looking at the scoreboard post-game.
“The addition of Jack Manone, Alec Powers and Tyler Horberg this year is the most important component of our success,” Fishman said. “Watching our first line of Alec, Tyler, and Will Rosenberg, who has been on the team for three seasons is a work of art. Their intelligent and effortless way of playing takes a huge toll off not only me, but the rest of the team. I will see them make a great play and then our second, third, and fourth lines will pick it up and score a goal in a similar fashion. Everyone is constantly learning from the better players on our team and it is like nothing I have ever seen.”
The Jack Attack
Fishman has played defense his whole career, a perfect fit for a skater who never was the fastest on his teams, he admitted.
“In certain areas of hockey, I lack a skill set, yet I replace that by being the most physical and hard-working player on the ice,” Fishman said. “I find myself to be stronger than a lot of players, so using my physical advantage is always going to help me play well. Getting dirty work done in battles along the boards, stepping up at the blue line to make an open-ice hit, and jumping up into the rush for an offensive play are some of my favorite parts of the game.”
One of his favorite on-ice memories was, naturally, against Deerfield last season. The Warriors walked over the Giants twice, winning 7-1 both times. In the third battle between these North Shore neighbors, the teams tied. Then, in game four of the 2019-2020 season, it was played in the league playoffs.
HP won, 6-3, “which is my favorite hockey memory of all-time,” Fishman said.
Another on-ice memory for Fishman was, as a sophomore, when the Giants were tied with Evanston, 3-3, with 10 seconds left. “I was at the face off, found the puck laying alone on the red line and decided to pinch. I came up the right side of the ice and hit a backhand pass to my teammate, Sam Shachtman, who tapped in the puck with :01 left for the win,” Fishman said.
“Compared to last season I am doing a lot better at not hesitating. I found myself thinking that I had less time than I really did and would throw away the puck. Now, I am slowing my game down to make better in-game decisions. I also have been jumping up into the offensive rush which is awesome. Coach Mike Glass helps me improve with my defensive side positioning as well.”
The Highlights of Horberg
The Giants finished 22-19-5 last season, including a 6-14-2 record in the Champions Varsity League of the North-Central Division.
There will be no sub-par season this winter for the Giants, but rather, a highlight reel-filled show every night from Horberg and company.
“I am an offensive-minded forward who always looks to pass before shooting,” Horberg said. “I am very competitive, to the point where I will constantly put my body on the line. Whether it be to block a shot or dive to get the puck out of the zone, you can count on me to give it everything I have.”
And score plenty of goals.
“Tyler is a highly-skilled player, a quality teammate and an offensive super-power,” said Highland Park coach Mark Eisenberg.
Horberg said his shooting and puck possession are both vastly improved over last season.
“I bring a new perspective and style of play to the team that I look to share with everyone,” Horberg said.
Eisenberg agrees: “Tyler can skate circles around the freshmen, but he’s always encouraging the younger kids, giving them tips and helping them develop as players.”
He certainly has helped hi longtime friend Fishman, too. And Fishman’s improvements are evident every shift.
“Jack Fishman bleeds HP blue,” Eisenberg said. “He wants to lift the team on his shoulders every practice and every game. Jack plays with all his heart and all his teammates respect his effort and dedication to bring the team together to improve and win games.”
Slapshots With … Highland Park defenseman Jack Fishman
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Dustin Byfuglien
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Warrior
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Pasta
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: John Mayer
Teammate You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Pierce Romo
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team: Billy Cohen
Most Accurate Shot: Alec Powers
Fastest Skater: Tyler Horberg
Best High School Jerseys (other than HP): Loyola Gold
Slapshots With … Highland Park forward Tyler Horberg
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Nathan MacKinnon
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Chicken sandwich and mashed potatoes
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Jim Carrey
Best Hockey Tip: “The most valuable player is the one who makes the most teammates valuable.” – Falcons coach Bob Heelan. Horberg added, “Every day at hockey I look to find the abilities in each and instill greatness in all.”
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Pierce Romo
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team: Billy Cohen
Most Accurate Shot: Will Rosenberg
Fastest Skater: Max Margulis
Best High School Jerseys (other than HP): “Glenbrook South … because they remind me of the University of Michigan uniforms.”
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.