Ever heard of a hockey player from Florida? Even though it is not a common sport here, senior Neville Jukmencuks fell in love with it. At just 6 years old, he began his journey playing hockey with his father at the Palm Beach Blackhawks (PBB) hockey rink. He then joined the PBB for a year. The PBB is a competitive league for players aged 8 to 18, where the experience often results in accelerated skill progression for the players to become proficient hockey players. This team requires determination and commitment from both the athlete and the family. His father, Hilmar Jukmencuks once played for a nationally known hockey team, the Frankfurt Lions, in his homeland of Germany. Therefore, there was absolutely no problem for his father to become completely determined and committed toward his son’s potential in hockey. This inspired N. Jukmencuks to continue his father’s legacy while also being motivated.
“I’ve always wanted my son to have the same experience as my brothers and I had
playing hockey. It’s such an incredible sport that can open numerous doors and opportunities for college and recognition,” H. Jukmencuks said.
Once N. Jukmencuks turned 9 years old he joined the Florida Junior Panthers in 2009 for 10 years. The Panthers are nationally known, as they are a tier-two organization, and are the best team in Florida. During his time with the Panthers, he trained and became proficient in his position as Left-Wing. He became disciplined in his practices five days a week from 7:45 p.m to 9:45 p.m. The Florida Junior Panthers’ development plan is simple but effective. Its structure allows the player to build on his or her own work ethic by utilizing the coaching staff’s knowledge and expertise, according to the Florida Panther website. He began to experience the real world while transitioning from a sport he believed would be fun to play after school to be able to become recognized to play in college.
“I am still currently with the Florida Junior Panthers hoping to continue learning and improving my skills in hockey,” N. Jukmencuks said.
Every year, N. Jukmencuks takes two out-of-state trips for the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) tournaments in Minnesota against the top team in the country. Last year during his 2018-2019 season he participated in the NAPHL with the Florida Alliance Hockey team (FAH), which is a tier-one team. When he was on the FAH he made 10 trips out-of-state to Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts.
“It’s a different atmosphere of higher leagues, with scouts from huge teams looking at everyone’s performance, which puts a bit of pressure on us to perform our best. The out of state tournaments is the only ONLY way we receive recognition from the scouts from those nationally known teams,” N. Jukmencuks said.
One of the challenges he is currently facing is receiving recognition from northern colleges that do not normally look into the hockey players in Florida. This is quite frustrating for Jukmencuks because it is difficult for him to have scouts come down to a state where their sport is not typically practiced due to the regional climate.
“It’s pretty hard receiving recognition in South Florida, especially for a sport that’s normally played in northern states like Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Michigan,” N. Jukmencuks said.
A few of the colleges N. Jukmencuks is interested in are Boston University (BU) which is D1 (Division one), Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) which is D2, Florida Atlantic University(FAU) which is D3 in hockey. FGCU and FAU have reached out to Jukmencuks to play at their school, while still waiting for a response from BU.