Might Aydin Schwetz be the first high school student to have his work published by The Hockey News?
Heading into his junior year at Westlake High School in Westlake Village, Schwetz was tabbed as the artistic force behind the creation of the eight brand new jerseys that will be worn by teams in the LA Kings High School Hockey League that begins play this fall. The Hockey News, LA Kings Insider and other outlets published his jersey templates online.
With some coordination from the Kings’ Hockey Development department, Schwetz, who will play on the South County Aviators in the league’s inaugural season, communicated with the other seven teams to get a firm understanding of what they had hoped would be a crisp reflection of their team in the form of a hockey logo.
“Some teams said to just have fun with it, some teams were very specific in what they wanted,” Schwetz said.
“For the Santa Clarita logo, they were very specific and said they just wanted Santa Clarita in an arc. So that only took five minutes. But something more complicated like the Aviators logo, I had to do some research and go online to see what other teams called the Aviators did with their logos, and kind of get some inspiration offline.”
And that’s exactly what the Kings are hoping to spur with the brand new hockey league: a multi-faceted platform that provides a high-level athletic outlet while nurturing the students’ talent and creativity away from the rink.
“I am huge on the interaction of other areas of the high school,” said television color commentator Jim Fox, the league’s commissioner.
“I want a [student] journalist, I want a PR person, I want someone in social media. All of the sudden a kid like [Aydin] pops up with what appears to be an incredible artistic design talent. That’s certainly what we’re looking for. We’re looking to make this a student-body experience.”
There are broad ideas in play, and over time the hope is that more people like Aydin – who has also demonstrated his entrepreneurial chops with an iPhone app that serves as a dictionary of hockey syntax – will have opportunities for enrichment that extend beyond goals, assists and wins. Participants will be highlighted on KingsVision and Kings Weekly and will have the opportunity to serve as media representatives of their team and to write recaps and columns for digital outlets, all in the name of telling their story. Even those who have never worn skates will be welcome to share their interests in helping make this league a collaborative effort that relies on the gifts of a talent pool stretching beyond a 200-by-85 foot playing surface.
“Maybe a high school doesn’t have a journalism department, but they have an English department and they know the kids that are interested in that and social media – something that is second hat to kids these days, but it’s going to be an integral part,” Fox said. “We want non-athletes also participating in this experience, and Aydin is the first one that pops out. And, in all honesty, the designs and the jerseys and the uniforms, that’s very important. We’re just starting and we’re trying to set our brand and set our mark. And then to have a kid like him come through with this type of design, it embodies what we want to do.”
“The athletes are going to be at the forefront, but that’s only a part of what makes any group work. We want to showcase the athletes, but it’s going to take a lot of other participation from the student body to make that work.”
Team organization and recruitment is also being handled by a network of parents and administrators, and Schwetz’s father, Jason, will serve as a coach for the South County Aviators team that his son will play for in the fall. The Aviators will share the Iceoplex Simi Valley facility with the East County Outlaws – they’re the only two teams in the inaugural season to share a home rink – and draw from a Ventura County and western Los Angeles County footprint.
While Aydin was a student at Oaks Christian High School prior to attending Westlake, his school had informal discussions with the Anaheim Ducks’ thriving high school league league to decide whether it would be appropriate to form a varsity team there, according to Jason Schwetz.
“Nothing ever materialized from it, other than that’s when the talks started of, ‘gosh, it sure would be nice if the Kings did something like this.’”
That’s now happening, thanks in part to some collaboration with those running the Ducks’ league, which was formed last decade. Similar to that league, the Kings’ league will begin play with one “pure” team – at West Ranch High School – and with the continued efforts from volunteers such as Jason Schwetz, administrators such as Fox and the Kings’ Hockey Development staff, and, most of all, a blooming Southern California talent pool, the framework will be there for the LAKHSHL to flourish.
“Our approach from the very beginning was we want as many kids to play as possible in the league,” Jason Schwetz said. “When I say ‘as possible,’ obviously there were a couple players – not many – that we felt from a safety standpoint could stay in in-house for one more season. But other than that, we pushed for every kid who wanted to put blades on their feet to come out and play high school hockey. I personally believe, as far as Southern California goes, it’s a game-changer.”
Jason Schwetz said that given the level of interest he’s received that Ventura County could have theoretically formed a third team.
“The challenge would’ve been the talent level would’ve been a little more shallow, which wouldn’t have been as good,” he said. “But I think from the standpoint of the inaugural year and building this as a league and a brand, it’s off to a great start. I think it’s going to grow faster than most of the people involved think it’s going to grow.”
Aydin, meanwhile, will play for the Ventura Mariners 16U-AA team this coming season in addition to the Aviators. Teams are expected to hold two practices a week and play on either Friday or Saturday.
“It seems like it’s going to be a fun league,” he said. “As the first season comes by, it probably won’t be as competitive as a travel team or a club team. But a few seasons into the future, it will become very competitive and a lot more pure teams which will probably be more fun with the high schools rooting for them and getting a cheering squad behind it, which would be a lot of fun.”
Playing alongside and in front of friends and classmates on weekend nights is part of the appeal of the league, and the Kings are looking for people like Aydin Schwetz to share their experiences to a wide audience.
“We feel there are many stories like Aydin’s to tell,” Fox said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be about hockey specifically, it just has to be about high school kids and them using their talents.”