Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Arizona Coyotes

The Chychruns: Three Generations of Love for the Game, Each Other

Through wisdom and guidance, age and experience, Jakob Chychrun is number three in a hockey-playing family tree

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

John Chychrun is 82 years old -- and he still plays hockey. 

"The best part is, he still wants the puck when he's on the ice," said Jeff, the father of Coyotes defenseman Jakob, and the son of Jakob's ageless grandfather John.

Jeff had to laugh. 

"We still get together and play hockey together during the summer, the three of us," Jeff said. "So, it's really a special thing. Then, we head out for wings and a drink after and call it a night. It's a multi-generational thing, to pass on the love of the game."

John is the second youngest of 12 children. His parents immigrated from the Ukraine to Saskatchewan right around World War I. Jakob calls his grandfather 'Dido,' which is Ukrainian for 'grandpa.'

"My Dido has probably been my favorite person on this planet from my earliest memories with him," Jakob said. "All of my cousins and everyone close to him would say the same.

"Every time I'm on the ice with him during the summer, I watch him with the biggest smile on my face. It really is special. I hope and strive to be just like him one day. I love him more than words can explain. I cherish my memories with him, and I hope to make many more."

John passed the torch to Jeff, and Jeff passed the torch to Jakob.

Jakob's father was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins' 1992 Stanley Cup-winning squad and played parts of eight seasons in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers before settling in Boca Raton, Florida, where Jakob was born and raised.

"He's my role model, my idol," Jakob said of his father.

"My dad was by far the biggest influence on me. Growing up in Florida, it's obviously a non-traditional hockey market. He introduced me to the game at a very young age. I was running around the house with a stick and my helmet on, right from when I could really start walking." 

The Coyotes defenseman started skating when he was two.

"He didn't force me to play, but he really helped me develop a love and a passion for the sport," Jakob said of his dad. "He coached me my whole life growing up. He really deserves so much credit. All he wanted to do was make the game fun for us. He wanted us to really enjoy what we did. Every day at the rink, he wanted us to be happy we were there."

The together-time is what Jeff valued the most.

"First, there was the drive to the rink and the little discussions," Jeff said. "And then, there were the practices. There were the conversations in the locker room … particularly when they were really young. And then, the ride home. We always had dinner afterward. Growing up in Florida, we'd jump in the hot tub outside, take a shower, jump in some pajamas and get to bed.

"There was always that time to discuss what we did, and it was so much fun." 

Jeff coached Jakob until he was 11 years old. His fondest memory of Jakob as a youth player was when their Florida Jr. Panthers AA squirt team won the Bell Capital Cup at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, beating a renowned London Jr. Knights team in the final.

"It was such a cool experience to go back home [to Canada] with my group of kids from Florida," said Jeff, who is a native of LaSalle, Quebec. "We won the tournament. The boys played so well. I think we only had 11 skaters, and I believe we played six games in three days.

"That moment just really stands out. It really made me realize that inside the rink, it's 200'x85', and outside the rink, there could be palm trees or there could be eight feet of snow. But inside the rink, the kids are all the same. It was really a proud moment for me, bringing all those kids back home."

Winning was just a bonus, really.

"He wanted us to really enjoy what we did," Jakob said. "Every day at the rink, he wanted us to be happy we were there -- and, to work on our skills. That was the other thing he always preached: 'The only thing you can control is how hard you work.' That's the motto he repeated to me at a very young age. It's something that I still carry with me today."

Added Jeff: "You can't really make someone work that hard unless they really love doing something. So, you're combining having a lot of fun with the game and working really hard. I think Jakob brings that to the rink, to this day still."

Jakob is a staple on the Coyotes' blue-line, but he played forward until he was 11.

"My dad really hammered home the skills side of the game," Jakob said. "He always wanted forwards doing defenseman drills, and defensemen doing forward drills. He always said: 'How do you know at that young of an age what position you want to be when you're older?' So, he always wanted us to work on every part of the game. I think it made it that much easier for me to switch positions because all of the things my dad was having us do." 

Jeff said: "Having the puck on your stick and being able to use all four edges -- it was always about increasing that skill level. Any coach can teach an intelligent athlete to play a certain system, but you need those built-in skills."

When Jakob was 11, he began his "travel hockey" career in full.

"We'd have to go to the west coast of Florida in Fort Myers," Jakob said. "And we live on the east coast. So, every weekend, my dad and I would drive two and a half hours over to Fort Myers. I'd be on the ice for literally eight hours during the weekend. I would practice with both the '97 age group and the '96 age group, a year and two years older than me. We'd stay in a hotel overnight and then drive back."

Soon, dad and son took it to the next level. They took to the air. 

"When he was 13, we kind of had to make a decision," Jeff said. "We started going up to Detroit on weekends and playing for Little Caesars."

Jakob played for that prominent AAA program for two years.

"My dad and I would fly every single weekend," he said. "We'd leave on either Thursday or Friday and spend three or four days during the weekend playing games and tournaments. The father-son time that we had, it was just irreplaceable. Those moments, those years we had together are memories I'll have forever."

And it was during those "Detroit years" that professional dreams began to blossom. 

"We started getting the inquiries from the agents, those sorts of things," Jeff said. "That's when we looked at ourselves and said yeah, probably. If he keeps pushing the envelope like this, he's probably going to have an opportunity to be something at the next level. When he was 13, you could sort of see the signs that he was progressing, and if the trend continued, he was going to have the opportunity to do something." 

At his father's demand, Jakob also needed to find time for his studies.

"He always said: 'you never know what could happen in hockey, you always have to get good grades in school,'" Jakob said. "And, I did. I was always a 4.0 student. I always took it seriously. I was a pretty smart kid in school."

Jeff retired from pro hockey when he was 28. He graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2000. 

"He had to retire at a very young age because of concussions," Jakob said. So, he actually went back to school when he retired. I don't even think he was 30 yet -- he might have been 30 -- but he went back to school in Boca Raton. There's actually a picture of him getting his degree carrying me and my sister. It's a pretty cool picture."

Jakob, who enjoys fishing and golf with his father, continued: "I think that also taught me many lessons with discipline. I traveled a ton for hockey. I always missed a lot of school. But I always came back and got my schoolwork done, ready to hand it in. I'd come back and take tests on Mondays if I missed Fridays, and I still maintained my grades. I think it taught me time management and discipline. That's all thanks to him for preaching school to me." 

Turning in his work was one thing, but Jeff is mostly proud of how his son turned out. 

"He's really a nice kid," Jeff said. "He's always had time for people. I think he's a lot like his mom in that he likes to gather people, get them together, and make everyone happy. And that's probably the most rewarding thing. He's had a lot of nice things come his way in the past few years, but I just see him as a real giver, someone who likes to give back. He treats people with respect and looks them in the eye, and I really appreciate those things as a father. It's so gratifying to see your kid really growing up into someone you respect."

Added Jeff: "We get a kick out of each other. I think he finds me extremely corny. Years ago, I used to always tell him about hockey, and I find that it's come full circle and that I'm constantly asking him questions because I know the game has changed so much. I respect his opinion so much. I'm really curious what the modern day athlete is like.

"I know a lot of parents call themselves their kids' best friend," Jeff said, "but I think we're dear friends."

Photos Courtesy: Jeff Chychrun

View More