By DAN O'NEILL
Life's most glorious moments sometimes have most innocent beginnings. Jane Mayfield grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she and her brother enjoyed ice skating at the Air Force Academy.
Skating wasn't her vocation, she just enjoyed it. Years later, Mayfield is a lactation specialist for area hospitals, living in Webster Groves. When she and husband Andy Mayfield began raising a family, she was eager to expose their children to recreational ice skating, as well.
From that innocuous Point A, the Mayfields found themselves at a sublime Point B on Saturday, sitting at the Excel Energy Center in Minneapolis, hearing the name of their son Scott called as the 34th player chosen in the NHL draft, the newest member of the New York Islanders.
"We lived so close to Webster ice rink," Jane Mayfield explained. "I said, 'Oh, all my kids are going to learn to skate,' and Scotty just got out there and kind of had a knack for skating. So someone suggested we do learn-to-play (hockey) with him. I thought, 'Oh, OK.'
"So, it started out that way. And what little kid doesn't want to be a professional hockey player one day?"
One day has transcended from a boy's dream to a young man's certainty. Fourteen years after his ice introduction, 18-year-old Scott Mayfield
will be skating at the Islanders' rookie camp July 11. He then will return to enroll at the University of Denver, where his father went to law school, where he has a full scholarship to play hockey.
"I'm not ready to play (professionally) yet," Mayfield said. "I'm definitely going to go to school. I mean, there's no rule in hockey. I can stay for a year, two years or all four years. It doesn't matter. So, whenever I'm ready, I'll take the next step."
The 6-foot-4 Mayfield has been taking giant steps of late. Three years ago he was playing junior varsity at Webster Groves High, just starting to blossom.
"It's been a meteoric rise," said Webster High coach Dave Garth. "I mean, you would not have looked at Scott as an 11- or 12-year-old and said this guy is an NHL prospect. He was good, but you would see a lot of kids at that age who were better.
"At the time … I knew he was going to be a collegiate player, maybe D-II or D-III, but he'd be able to play college hockey somewhere. By the end of his sophomore year, it was pretty clear he was going to be a D-I player."
And it didn't stop there. In April 2009, the Triple A Blues played host to a national tournament in town. Mayfield won the overall skills competition. He was invited to a USA development camp, where he was named the top defenseman and invited to play in a tournament in Slovakia.
By summer's end,, every school in the country was interested in Mayfield before he committed to Denver. At the same time, he was drafted into the United States Hockey League, the nation's top junior hockey circuit. Initially taken by Indiana, Mayfield's rights were traded to the Youngstown (Ohio) Phantoms.
It soon became apparent to the Mayfields that their 16-year-old would be leaving the Webster nest to move in with a surrogate family many miles from home.
"We drove up to there and watched Scott try out (for the USHL) and I was like, 'Oh, I really feel he's in the mix … I think they're going to want him," Jane Mayfield said. "And on the ride home, I think I cried the whole nine hours back. I was thinking I probably have to let my kid go up there at 16, figuring when you get a chance like that, you have to take it."
During his second season for Youngstown, Mayfield had seven goals, nine assists and 159 penalty minutes. He was invited to the World Junior-A Challenge, where he quarterbacked Team USA to a gold medal victory over Canada East. Mayfield was named the tournament MVP.
Scouting eyes were smiling about his made-to-order profile for an NHL defenseman. A strong skater, Mayfield has room to embellish his 205 pounds. He jumps into the play offensively, possesses a hard shot, plays both instinctively and assertively. By the time the draft arrived, Central Scouting Bureau had Mayfield rated 24th among North American skaters and seventh among North American defensemen.
There was a possibility he could be selected in the first round of the draft Friday evening, so the Mayfield posse were at the arena. The entourage included Jane and Andy, Scott's older brother, Patrick, a student and club hockey player at the Air Force Academy, and sister Sarah, 17, a senior at Webster High. Garth also was there, as well as Scott's Youngstown family, Gayle and Jim Ridge.
The Mayfield contingent didn't get to celebrate until Saturday, when Scott was chosen early in the second round. Naturally, there was some disappointment when Scott's name wasn't called Friday. But, with the maturity that enhances his promising future, Scott never lost perspective.
"I tried to manage those (expectations) as well as I could," he said. "I knew it would be hit and miss on Friday night. It was a little hard sitting there. But now I can just use it for more motivation, and going in the second round takes a little bit of the pressure off."
Garth has no doubt he will see his former player on an NHL blue line soon. "His brother came in as a freshman and told me he wanted to go to the Air Force Academy," Garth said, "and I saw Patrick work toward that goal and achieve it.
"Scott was the same way. When he made that overseas team, he was bright enough to know he has a chance to do something, and he made that a goal. He's really dedicated to maximizing his athletic potential. He's very bright and extremely motivated."
He's also very grateful for all the moments that have gotten him from Point A to Point B. "My family always has been there for me," he said. "They helped and supported me a ton. That's why it was so great having them be there when it all happened."
Little did Jane Mayfield know, when she signed her 4-year-old up for learn-to-play, that he would truly learn to play.