The 2020-21 hockey season was full of challenges and disappointment for many who saw the challenges of a world in pandemic trying to find ways to stay on the ice amid restrictions and precautions.
It’s nice to see a successful conclusion on a season like that and for Jack Fuss, it ended up being an amazing campaign as, this time last season, he wasn’t even thinking about playing.
Ultimately, he couldn’t give up on the game though. He returned to play for Head Coach Chris Walby and the Minnesota Mullets, and his time there ultimately ended up with him being pursued by the St. Scholastica Saints. As a result, he finds himself back at a college campus again this fall, but this time, as a student athlete.
Fuss, a 5’9” 180-pound defenseman who turned 20 on Sept. 8, is a resident of Edina, a hockey player factory on the outskirts of the Twin Cities with a high school team that plays in the annual State Championship tournament regularly.
Looking for a little more hockey exposure, Fuss decided to take his act to Wisconsin as a high school junior playing AAA for the Madison Capitols.
“We played somewhere around 60 games and it was great for my development,” said Fuss in an email interview. “We played teams like Shattuck and Culver, so it was good competition.
“I went back home to Edina High School for my senior year. I was supposed to play on the varsity team that year, but because of transfer laws in the MSHSL, I was not allowed to play. I ended up having to play for the Junior Gold A team that year.”
Fuss dealt with the disappointment, but it was a bit of an unexpected gut punch for the player.
“It was a good year,” said Fuss. “But also, it was hard for me because I wanted to play for EHS ever since I watched my brother win a state title there in 2014.”
Fuss finished high school and moved on to college in the fall of 2020, temporarily leaving the sport behind.
“I started off last year, just going to school at the University of St. Thomas and I wasn’t playing any sports. I was a full-time student, but I stayed in the weight room. With about four weeks left in the first semester there, I realized I didn’t want to go to school and not play hockey, the sport I have been playing all my life. Hockey has been a big part of our family forever and not playing just felt weird.”
“I reached out to Coach Walby and asked him if there was still a spot for me on the team or not and thankfully, there was,” said Fuss. “As soon as I found out he had a spot for me, I went down and skated with my dad’s team in Sioux Falls. He coaches the 18U Sioux Falls Power hockey team.”
The layoff wasn’t long, but Fuss realized he needed to shake off some rust and he worked hard to prepare.
“It was my first time skating in over 10 months, so I stayed out on the ice for a while and just trie3d to get back into it as fast as I could,” said Fuss. “After about two weeks of skating, I started skating with the Mullets and I was fully a part of the team. After the first two practices I knew I was going to love it. I got along with every single person on that team and really felt at home.
“After a few weeks on the team, I started to play with Darren Shykes a lot and he as my D-partner for most of the season. I played 11 games and then sadly, I got a bad ankle injury that took me out for the rest of the season.
“I played in the first game of playoffs, and everything went well, but five minutes into the second game I re-injured it taking me out of the game.”
The short but exciting experience had Fuss looking forward to returning for another season with the Mullets and Coach Walby looked forward to him being a key player on the defense corps. Showcase tournaments through the season give players like Fuss to get noticed by college and university scouts, but the process got rushed a bit along the way.
“I got contacted by the Head Coach at St. Scholastica and they told me they needed a right-handed defenseman, and I was the first person they contacted,” said Fuss.
It turns out the Coach had watched a few hours of Mullets film and had a good idea of what the defenseman brought to the table. He just couldn’t pass up a chance to play for the MIAC school that had expressed a need for what he could bring.
“They said they were going to start talking to me this next year on the Mullets to play with them in the 2022-23 season and they were already on the list of schools I wanted to possibly play for. Some things happened and opened the door for me to come in and play a year early. My goal coming back was to play hockey for a Division 3 school and I felt like it was something I just couldn’t walk away from.”
But there is another draw that plays an even bigger role.
“On top of that, my brother is a senior at the school, playing for the hockey team and I thought it would be cool to play on a team with him. He is four years older than me so it always seemed like it would be impossible to ever play with him.”
Fuss has already started taking classes at Scholastica and will major in Business Management.
His time with the Mullets and Coach Walby may have been brief, but Fuss said it played a huge role in helping him achieve his goal of playing college hockey.
“If it wasn’t for Coach Walby, none of this would be happening. He took me and had confidence in me, knowing I had been away from the game for quite a while.
“He told me he knew that I would be able to adjust and get back into it the right way. I will never forget what Coach Walby has done for me and I am very thankful.”
The Mullets are also thankful for what Fuss brought to the team in the 2020-21 season and wish him luck with both his education and hockey career at St. Scholastica.