By Ross Forman – Luke Schuler is back on the Marist varsity after spending the past two seasons skating for the Orland Park Vikings 16U and 18U Central States teams, bringing skill and leadership to the rebuilding RedHawks.
“I thought it would be an honor to represent my school during my senior year,” said Schuler, 18, who lives in Mokena.
The right-handed shooting center, in jersey No. 6, was a Marist varsity player as a freshman. He also previously has played for the Arctic Jr. Fury.
“My 2019-20 season began very unexpectedly. Having just suffered an ACL tear near the end of my 2018-19 season, I was doubtful that I would even skate again, let alone play at such an intense level. I was determined to get back on the ice. After intensive rehabilitation for 10 months, I dressed for my first game in October of 2019,” Schuler said. “My first shift back, I took a high hit and suffered a wrist fracture. As expected, I was shattered.
“However, I fought back from the injury and was back playing by mid-December. I think that showed the drive a player such as myself possesses. I was pleased with how the remainder of the season went. Although we did not have a winning record, I was able to secure more and more playing time and ultimately increase my confidence game by game. Considering what I had been through, I was content with how I finished the season. But I knew there was work to do to get where I want to be.”
Schuler added: “My personal goals for this season are to take advantage of the uncertainties in the hockey world. Yes, I can be mad and frustrated about not having a normal season, but I would just be wasting my time. Instead, I continue to get stronger and work on my game from all aspects to best prepare me for college play.
Schuler can best be described as a power forward and certainly a two-way forward. He is aggressive and uses his body to his advantage. He also is skilled on defense, too.
“I understand how crucial defense is to winning games, hence why I try to never get sucked down low in the offensive zone,” he said.
“Hockey has given me memories and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world, from running around hotels to the many stories on bus trips to Minnesota,” he said. “One memory sits in my head that was the ‘aha moment.’ Back in February of 2013 I had the opportunity to skate at Soldier Field during the Winter Classic. Dennis Savard was hosting a hockey clinic that I was fortunate to be a part of. Walking out of the tunnel and onto the field was something I will never forget. We walked out under the stadium lights with a light snow falling, I looked around and saw the stands just towering over me from every direction. It felt like a dream. It was at this point where I knew I wanted to play hockey for the rest of my life.
“I cherish every goal I score and assist I make because they are all special. One goal that, to this day, I have no idea how it went in, happened in Holland, Michigan during my peewee year. I was behind the goal line in the corner, but my stick was just in front of it with the puck on the end. I decided to put the puck on net. There was no visible angle to put it in from where I was, but I took a high shot and it snuck in right between the goalie’s shoulder and head. It had to have been perfect. I wish there were a video of it because I would just laugh at how I even did it.”
Schuler admitted he is nervous for this season, but knows his teammates and coaches wanted him back on the roster. “I feel pressure in my performance as well as leadership. I feel as if I do not perform as well as I should, then my leadership will lack. So far, I learned that if I am doing my job, the rest will come by itself,” Schuler said. “I bring leadership and intensity to the team. Leadership was something we lacked my freshman year and I am glad I learned from it. I learned that every successful team has a great leader, and I was willing to step up and take that role and responsibility. When everyone buys into the mission and goal, that’s when we play our best.
“I am more of a silent leader and ‘lead by example’ type of player. I think my playing style inspires younger guys to play the same way. Encouraging and complimenting my teammates after a smart play, in my eyes, is what gets everyone to gel and be productive. In practice, I find myself bringing high intensity and physicality to every drill and practice, making my teammates work just as hard.”
Schuler is deciding between Bowling Green State University and the University of Michigan, and he plans to major in hospitality management and minor in business finance. “Marist has prepared me exceptionally well for the next journey in life. I am super thankful for everyone who has helped me reach this point. However, hockey is not off my radar. I have always dreamed of playing college hockey, and that has always been the goal from the start. Whether it is ACHA or NCAA, I plan to play at whatever school I attend,” he said. “Both schools have very successful programs, so it will definitely be a challenge to crack a roster.”
**Photos courtesy of Luke Schuler**
Slapshots With … Marist Center Luke Schuler
Uniform No. 6: “I chose 6 after my Uncle Pat, who played in the Ontario Hockey Association (now OHL) for the Toronto Marlboros. He had a significant influence on me and has been my role-model, on and off the ice. I am so proud to be able to wear his number. He has taught me valuable lessons far beyond the game of hockey, helping me establish a successful future along the way.”
Giving Praise: He singled out his parents first, naturally, then highlighted his “first and best” coach, Chris Cimoch. “I don’t think he receives the credit he deserves. I would not be in this position without his wisdom of the game. Coach Chris instilled in me three words that I will never forget: Family, School, Hockey, in that order.”
Mom & Dad: “Without my parents’ sacrifice, I would not be able to pursue my dreams of playing college hockey. I am truly grateful for the time, money, hospital bills, gas, and so many other things they have given up for me.”
Homework: “Oddly, I think homework is something that really helps me on the ice. More times than not, hockey is usually clouding my head when doing an assignment. It can be 1 a.m., and all I am thinking is, ‘I just want to skate.’ I like to imagine situations I might find myself in during games, so it makes every time I step on the ice more enjoyable.”
Black Cats: “I am very superstitious when it comes to games and tournaments. If I play a good game, I will try to repeat everything I did that day, hoping I will perform just as well. My dad is the same. I remember when we would play at tournaments in Holland, Michigan; we always had to take the same way back to the hotel if we wanted to win the next game.”
Favorite NHL Team: “Living in Chicago, it’s not easy to be a Detroit Red Wings fan. I always loved the rich history between the Blackhawks/Red Wings rivalry.”
Favorite NHL Player: “My favorite NHL player is someone who I try to model my game after. Although he does not play in the league anymore, Pavel Datsyuk was a two-way forward and always was fun to watch, no matter where he is on the ice.”
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: “I don’t think a hockey player can say his favorite movie is anything but Miracle. I remember watching it on long car rides and bus trips to tournaments and finding a great spark of motivation.”
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Chipotle – “I keep it simple, a steak bowl with just cheese, lettuce, and white rice.”
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. “It would be unbelievable to talk to an athlete who has found so much success yet is so humble about it. They are the best athletes to have ever played the sports they have, so it would be amazing to hear their point of view. I think they would offer an empowering perspective on life and the sports they have played.”
Best Hockey Tip: “My uncle Pat gave me a post-it note one day that is still on my wall with the words, ‘Because we only get one chance at this game.’ I use these words as fuel whenever I’m feeling down about my game, reminding myself I only have one chance to make my dream come true and not to give up on that. When it’s over, it’s over, and I do not want to have any regrets.”
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Junior goalie Lukas McWilliams
Hardest Slapshot On Marist: Nick Thompson or Matt Hansen. “Both have rockets. Matt recently shattered a piece of glass from his shot, so he has some bragging rights over Nick.”
Most Accurate Shot: Sophomore Liam Dougherty – “He can tuck a puck in short side or slide a puck five-hole and teams are left asking how he did it.”
Fastest Skater: “A tie between myself and sophomore George Cleary. He has unbelievable speed and is fun to watch when he is wheeling with the puck. My best advice is to move out of the way and let George do his thing when he has the puck.”
Best High School Uniforms (other than Marist): “I might get in trouble for saying this, but I always really liked St. Rita’s older white jerseys with the red S and R in the middle. I remember going to my first Catholic League game with my dad when I was in grammar school. It was a late game on a school night, so I was shocked my mom let us go. I didn’t know what to expect. It was a playoff game at Southwest Ice Arena between St. Rita and Providence Catholic. The environment was absolutely electrifying. Seeing St. Rita walking out of the locker room was so intimidating; the music and student section made for a great game.”
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.