NHL Reveals Fan Skills Class of 2021
Fifteen marvels on skates have deked, puck-handled, and spun their way into the NHL Fan Skills Class of 2021. In the inaugural campaign of NHL Fan Skills at Home Presented by GEICO, fans from around the world were asked to capture their best moves on video and submit them on Instagram and Tik Tok. Those videos were shared across NHL social media channels and were viewed more than 84.4 million times.
A panel of four judges, Emmy Award-winning actor Kenan Thompson, Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle, United States Olympic gold medalist and Chicago Blackhawks development coach Kendall Coyne Schofield, and three-time Stanley Cup champion and NBC Sports NHL studio analyst Patrick Sharp, selected their favorite to make up the NHL Fan Skills Class of 2021, comprised of fans hailing from six countries.
The group of 15 Fan All-Stars, comprised of men and women from across the world, was announced on the NHL’s Instagram page.
“I had a blast watching all of the NHL Fan Skills videos roll in,” says Coyne Schofield. “Being able to see the amazing skill and creativity from all over the world shows how talented our hockey community really is. Thank you to the NHL for having me judge these videos so we can celebrate these amazing hockey fans during this unique season.”
With the 2021 NHL All-Star Game not being held because of COVID-19 protocols, fans who were stuck at home during the pandemic were asked to emulate their favorite NHL stars or come up with their own brand of highlight in the categories of Shootout Move, Accuracy, Celly, Trick Shot, and Stickhandling.
“I was thrilled to be a judge for NHL Fan Skills at Home, which showcased the amazing and unique talent of the most creative fans in all of hockey. I was in absolute awe of the incredible videos that passionate NHL fans across the world submitted,” says Thompson. “I especially loved all the Mighty Ducks videos! While we faced some tough choices, we have without a doubt picked some of the coolest hockey fan skills videos on the planet.”
Two of the Fan All-Stars chosen, Dayton O’Donoghue and Washiiyeh Jeannotte, were posting their videos during quarantine anyway so participating in the campaign was an easy decision.
O’Donoghue, from Toronto, was putting her skills training and conditioning videos on social media because she aspires to play at an elite NCAA Division I school and was entering a critical year in the recruiting process.
“I wasn’t certain of how long I would be off the ice and not able to train with my team,” she says. “So, I decided the only way I could continue my passion for self-development was to take matters into my own hands. I thought it was vital to send the message that I was still focused on the path towards playing University hockey and doing what I could (with limited resources) to stay conditioned. I then developed a rigorous training schedule to improve myself as an athlete, on and off the ice.”
O’Donoghue’s Instagram includes videos of her lifting weights at home and doing the same intricate moves as some of the NHL’s biggest stars on her backyard rink, to which she recently added synthetic ice tiles.
“Through countless hours of analyzing and breaking down highlight reels and game play, I have been able to pick up on elite habits that all these players possess, such as head-up awareness, deception or effective weight shifting,” she says. “By understanding how these habits translate into on-ice success, I can create drills for myself to master these skills. I have developed new habits similar to the pros that I am anxious to utilize in game situations.”
With a following of more than 2,000 on Instagram, O’Donoghue saw NHL Fan Skills at Home as another way to expand her reach as a budding hockey star and role model.
“I hope that in the near future, professional women’s hockey leagues can be more established, supported, and recognized, which would provide all female hockey players, including myself, with more opportunities to continue playing the game we love throughout our lives and to be adequately compensated for efforts, skills and years of dedication to the sport that we love,” she says. “A short-term goal would be to collaborate with a media or broadcast platform because I enjoy public speaking. If I can help in any way to be a voice for females in this sport and help build our network, that too would be a dream come true.”
At 9 years old, Jeannotte has already had a taste of viral fame thanks to his video in which he took a trick shot from fellow NHL Fan Skills Class of 2021 classmate, Pavel Barber, and turned the volume way up.
After his league was shut down because of COVID-19 protocols, Jeannotte had a lot more time to spend on the backyard rink and his brother, Mason, began recording his skillful displays.
Barber’s move involved picking the puck up onto his stick and doing a handful of pirouette-like tight spins before shooting, but Jeannotte’s version included 125 spins. As the video’s popularity grew online, drawing kudos from Barber and shares on the NHL’s social media channels, it offered a glimpse of Jeannotte’s hockey life.
From the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, located in La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, about 230 miles north of Montreal and almost 200 miles north of Ottawa, the Jeannotte family lives in a remote community with a population of 500. His Atom AA team is located just outside of Ottawa and it’s a 4-hour round trip for practices and 6-hour round trip for most of his league games.
He hopes to one day play in the NHL like other Indigenous players, retired forward Jordin Tootoo and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear.
“I was motivated to join the NHL Fan Skills competition to help share my story to motivate kids from all over the world,” Jeannotte said. “No matter who you are and where you’re from, never give up! Hard work and persistence always pay off.”
“Nothing has changed for me since my videos have gone viral. I am still the same kid and all I can hope for is to motivate other kids to never give up. Hockey is for everyone!”
Danny Baraniuk, 11, North Pelham, Ontario; Pavel Barber, 31, Toronto, Ontario; Mikayla Barnes, 12, Burlington, Ontario; Kasen Beitz, 13, Chesley, Ontario; Zac Bell, 20, Bracebridge, Ontario; Desmond Garrett, 6, Indianapolis, Indiana; Washiiyeh Jeannotte, 9, Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation; Spencer Jenkin, 31, Oakville, Ontario; Alex Kercs, 30, Riga, Latvia; Alisa Kriger, 12, Magnitogorsk, Russia; Jent Kulthanthorn, 14, Nonthaburi, Thailand; Pete Lenes, 35, Shelburne, Vermont; Alexei Morita, 22, Raleigh, North Carolina; Dayton O’Donoghue, 15, Toronto, Ontario; Iiro Puntari, 26, Vantaa, Finland.