EDMONTON, Alta. -- Jaden Schwartz wanted to make one thing perfectly clear when asked how excited he was to be given another shot to accompany the Canadian National Junior Team to the World Junior Championship in December.
"From here on out, this tournament, this camp -- everything is for (my sister)," Schwartz told NHL.com following the opening day of Canada's development camp at Rexall Place. "While I'm obviously trying to do this for me, my family and for Canada; most of all, it's for her."
It was only four months ago Mandi Schwartz lost a courageous two-year battle to acute myeloid leukemia. She was only 23.
Blues prospect Jaden Schwartz has found inspiration in his sister's courageous battle with cancer. Mandi Schwartz lost her battle just four months ago (Getty Images).
As you might expect, the wounds are still fresh and not a day goes by that Jaden doesn't think of his sister. The only difference now, he's able to put those feelings into words and share with others willing to listen.
You get the feeling Jaden wants the legacy his sister left behind to last a lifetime. But really, he needn't fear as her spirit will never fade. Her impact was that magnificent.
"She was everything to me," Schwartz said. "She was a huge inspiration in every aspect of life, whether it was hockey or the way she treated people. She kind of touched everybody, especially when she got sick; she never complained about a thing and kept fighting. She kept believing and, every chance she'd get, she'd go for a workout or skate despite being sick -- it was awesome."
Schwartz was living the dream of every hockey-crazed teenage boy this past December when informed he'd represent his country in the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. The news came just six months after he was selected in the opening round of the 2010 Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues with the No. 14 pick.
All the while, though, Mandi struggled with her dreaded disease. The cancer would be put into remission on three occasions, including three months after undergoing a stem-cell transplant in mid-October at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
But each time it would return.
While Jaden would offer some sense of family relief by earning a spot on the 22-man Canadian roster at last year's WJC, it was brief since he was limited to just two games after suffering a broken left ankle. During his talk with the media to announce he would not play another game in the WJC, Schwartz stressed how "there's people in the world going through worse things than I am. So I'll keep that in the back of my mind."
Now, Jaden feels he has some unfinished business for Team Canada and is grateful the managerial team contacted him to get that second shot.
"Last year was disappointing, not only for myself, but for the team and the guys on the team," Schwartz said, referencing Canada's silver medal, which came after a 5-3 loss to Russia in the championship game. "It's tough when you go out from a tournament you dream of playing in, one you watched as a kid. One of the hardest things I had to do was sit there and watch."
Schwartz had 1 goal and 2 assists in two games for Canada while playing key minutes alongside center Brayden Schenn and Louis Leblanc. But it ended rather abruptly.
"I've been waiting for this camp ever since that tournament ended," Schwartz said. "Hopefully, I'll get another crack at it. I'm excited to finally be here. Sometimes you don't know how lucky you are and if you get another opportunity to play for your country, you want to make the best of it and leave everything out there because you don't know how many chances you're going to get."
This fall, Jaden will spend a good deal of time with his older brother, Rylan, as they will again be teammates on the Colorado College hockey team. Jaden will be entering his sophomore year after topping all NCAA freshmen in points per game (1.57) and winning four team awards, including MVP, in 2010-11. Rylan, entering his senior year, was third on the team in scoring with 38 points, including 10 goals.
"College hockey was an adjustment, so I think the older guys, and my brother, helped me out so you kind of get used to it," Schwartz said. "I played my game and the coaching staff trusted me with the time they gave me and it's a lot of fun.
"College hockey is fun; every game means so much and you get that confidence and keep rolling. I'm not really sure why I had success, but I went out there and improved a lot playing against older guys and stronger guys."