By Ross Forman – Senior Jack Muir is a solid, steady defenseman in his third season on the Glenbrook South varsity team. He is a right-handed shooting team captain with, in reality, limited experience on the blue line.
Muir, 18, played wing, usually off-wing, for most of his career. Then, in his first season playing midget-level hockey, he traveled to Tampa, Florida for a tournament and his team had multiple injured defensemen. So, Muir volunteered to play defense, “and I loved the position,” he said. “There was a great defensive coach with that team, who had played collegiate hockey at the Division I level, and he asked if I would stay on defense. I have never looked back.”
Muir, who lives in Glenview and wears uniform No. 22, is certainly an offensive defenseman who models his game after Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen. “He utilizes his speed to create plays while playing strongly in his defensive end. I have a defensive mindset in my zone, but always will jump in the rush if I see an opportunity.”
That approach helped Muir score 7 goals, 9 assists in 26 regular-season Scholastic Hockey League games as a junior. Last January against OPRF, Muir had 1 goal, 1 assist, his lone 2-point game in SHL play. He finished the SHL regular-season with 1 point in each of the Titans’ last 4 games.
GBS finished 13-12-0-2-0 with 28 points, 6th-place in the 10-team SHL.
He also was named to the All-SHL Academic Team, one of 14 from last season’s Titans.
“The 2019-2020 season was, by far, one of my most favorite hockey seasons of my career,” Muir said. “Our team was similar to our team for the 2018-2019 season and we had such a strong bond as a team and the morale was superb. Head coach Jimmy Philbin always stressed that we were a two-year team which was building up to that 2019-2020 season. The 2019-2020 team consisted of the greatest number of players that I have consistently played with since I was 6 years old. Although we had an up and down regular-season, I knew it was only a matter of time that everything we had all been working towards our entire hockey lives, would finally come together. We all knew Coach Philbin so well since he had coached many of us on the Stars squirt Central States team. He had always kept tabs on us and continued to stay in touch with us through his summer camps.
“We trusted and knew that if we bought into Coach Philbin’s game plan, that he would make us successful. Even at times when we became frustrated with our play as a team, we kept our faith in Coach Philbin and his game plan. We really started to click as a unit toward the end of the season. We had experienced several very disappointing setbacks throughout the season, but we never let those experiences get to us and interfere with our goal of winning the state championship.”
This past March, the Titans were two wins from state glory. No. 6 GBS was poised to play arch-rival Glenbrook North, the No. 2 seed, in the semifinals.
The Titans had already defeated No. 11 Hinsdale Central 4-2 and No. 3 Saint Viator 4-0 to advance to the state semifinals.
“One example of the disappointing (regular-season) experiences last season was our series of games against Saint Viator,” Muir said. “Although Viator had our number for most of the regular season, we played two strong games against them in the first round of the SHL playoffs. Those games against Viator and a few practice games prior to the state tournament started to confirm that everything was coming together and that everything Coach Philbin was teaching was paying off. I believe that was the time our momentum really started to ramp up and the team camaraderie and morale had never been stronger.
“Although the season was cut short, I was able to gain friends who have turned into family and will have friendships that last a lifetime. One person who made our entire team whole was Jimmy Philbin. He is the person who brought us all together through his way of coaching, working with players and building a bond which got us all to buy into the same goal, and without him we weren’t the same team. Our coaching staff of Mike DiMaggio and Jimmy Philbin, Jr. was crucial to our development in both skill and morale.”
Muir was selected twice to the Illinois High School Hockey Showcase Team, one of six defensemen on each team to represent Illinois. “It was an awesome experience and an honor to be able to play with the top players from Illinois,” he said. “Through that experience, I was able to form a lot of friendships that I still have to this day.
“Though you could feel very negative toward last season due to the pandemic extinguishing the hopes of my teammates and players on the other three (Red Division) teams in the final four, and shutting down the second Showcase Tournament, it never will steal all of the great memories and friendships that I was able to form last year.”
South lost 16 seniors from last season, so “it is definitely an adjustment” this season, Muir said. But the Titans bring a lot of new, talented players and their goal remains the same: win state.
The motivation is strong, for sure.
“We have unfinished business, not just for this team, but for the team from last year,” Muir said. “I hope I can help my teammates reach their goals. My personal goals for this season are to play in the All-State Game, make the Showcase team, and hopefully be on the All-SHL first team.”
Muir, who played his youth hockey for the Glenview Stars, Chicago Bulldogs and Falcons, credits his dad (Jamie) as one of the most impactful on his career. “You could basically classify him as my personal agent and equipment manager,” Muir said. “Ever since I was a kid, my dad was always looking for opportunities for me to skate with the best players and play where I would develop the best, while always balancing my hockey with my schoolwork. He always presented to me opportunities and options and always allowed me to make my own choices as to how and where to develop my game. He has always had my back. I wouldn’t be the person or hockey player I am today without him. He has done so much, just for me to play hockey at his inconvenience and for that I will never be able to repay him.”
Muir also further credits GBS Coach Philbin – his influence on and off the ice.
“Although Coach Philbin has taught me skills and hockey IQ that have taken my craft to the next level, the most important thing that he has taught me is how to be a better person outside of hockey,” Muir said. “Since I was a squirt, he has been a coach who relates to his players as not only a coach, but a mentor and a friend. I have played for Coach Philbin multiple times for different teams, such as the Glenview Stars Central States and Glenbrook South. Throughout my three years that I have been coached by coach Philbin at Glenbrook South, there is no doubt in my mind, that he is hands down the most relatable coach any young hockey player can play for. He is someone you can go to for anything – a laugh, a question, or advice – and he always will be there for his players and former players.
“One of the reasons GBS teams become such a tight-knit group is because we all buy into someone who we trust. Coach Philbin has always had my back throughout my hockey career and has always looked out for my best interests. Further, Coach Philbin is someone who has impacted my hockey career for the better and for life as a person; I cannot thank him enough. None of his former players can.”
Muir said his favorite hockey memory, so far, was years ago scoring the goal that sent his team to the finals of the Silver Stick Regional. Muir, then a forward, was the high guy and the puck popped out to him in the slot – and he buried it over the goalie’s shoulder. “That goal was the one that I look back on and was really impressed with throughout my career,” he said. “It came late in the game and was against a major rival. It was one of those explosive moments where the whole rink erupted.”
Muir continues to improve his game, with a very physical approach – yet he’s determined to limit penalty minutes due to his style of play.
“I think I will be able to lead a team filled with younger players based on my experience and will bring energy to the team that can spark a locker room,” he said. “It is an honor to be able to lead this team. I try to lead by example by always trying to be one of the hardest workers on the ice. It is tough for everyone to bring their best every day, but I try to always work as hard as I can and hope that lifts my teammates. I have a great group of guys that make it easy to lead.”
Muir is still undecided on his college plans, though he wants to major in sports management.
“One thing I have found to be really good for me when I am on the ice is, before games I do a little bit of homework. I have found it settles my mind and before big games, it helps to ease the nerves and gets me ready for the task at hand,” he said.
His off-ice life also included working at Lucky’s Car Wash which, he said, “was a really cool experience, being in a new environment and meeting new people,” he said. “A lot of the people I worked with were older and we all came from very different backgrounds. I had a blast learning about them, their backgrounds and we had a lot of laughs.”
Plus, he gained real-life Spanish practice.
“I loved that summer, working with them and for an employer who understood and supported my commitment to hockey. They were always willing to get me full weekly hours, but willing to work around all of my skates. The physical nature of that job, working all day in the heat, coupled with my skates, was great for my conditioning.”
Muir’s off-ice life also has included true, real-world experiences. He has volunteered with his dad at Feed My Starving Children in Libertyville. “We would move supplies to be packed, pack the food or label the food packages while we were there. It felt good to give back to people who need it the most,” Muir said. “Doing the volunteer work feels great. I am truly fortunate to be in the situation I am in, yet others don’t get that opportunity. If I can take a couple of hours out of my day to make someone’s situation better, that makes me feel like I am having a positive impact on the world.”
**Photo credit: Alex Botvinnik**
Slapshots With … GBS Defenseman Jack Muir
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Alex Ovechkin
Favorite Sports-Themed Movie: Moneyball
Favorite Pre-Game Meal: Noodles with grilled chicken
Celebrity You’d Like to Meet: Lebron James
Best Hockey Tip: “From a checking clinic my first year of bantam: Always keep your head up. After a drill where I kept my head down and got completely blown up, I have kept that tip close to my heart.”
To His Teammates, Past and Present: “I am grateful to my teammates. The experience I have had will last a lifetime and I just want you boys to know I love you and thank you for everything.”
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Will Papalas
Hardest Slapshot On Your Team: Hunter Niemann
Most Accurate Shot On Your Team: Beckett Doyle
Fastest Skater: Danny Sullivan
Best High School Uniforms (other than GBS): “Barrington’s alternate black and red jerseys.”
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.