Training regimen keeps McGrew on the power play
Something was wrong, and Jake McGrew knew it.
He had experienced plenty of hockey success – most notably a championship at the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament with the LA Selects in 2012.
He had played AAA hockey for several years and clearly was on the radar of junior scouts in the Western Hockey League (WHL) and United States Hockey League.
Still, something had to give.
“Two years ago, I got out of shape; I was slow,” the 1999-born forward from Orange said. “My dad said, ‘We can start working out.’”
And when Sean McGrew works out after 12-hour days doing masonry, it’s not for the faint of heart. This is a man who, as a high school football player with a college commitment in hand, had to overcome a devastating knee injury that shredded all three major ligaments.
“I went from a 220-pound middle linebacker to 175 with my knee larger than my thigh when I was able to be mobile,” he said. “I was told I’d be lucky to run again.”
A chance meeting with an NFL trainer who was rehabbing a broken back helped him devise and refine training methods he still uses.
“I was already working in masonry and concrete,” he said. “Basically, I have to work out in order to work hard.”
With his dad’s knowledge about technique and a garage full of weights, the opportunity to improve was just out the back door.
“He knows his way around the gym,” Jake said. “I ran every day and worked out every night with him after hockey practice. As I got bigger, strong and faster, the game got easier.”
The difference was obvious.
“Jake’s really come into his own,” said Jack Bowkus, his Los Angeles Jr. Kings Midget 16U AAA coach. “He really turned it up a notch. He’s fast, has a cannon of a shot and plays with energy. He gets his nose dirty.”
Added fellow Jr. Kings coach Shawn Pitcher, who coached Jake with the Selects: “He’s solid and strong, just like his dad. And Jake likes to finish his hits. When he’s moving his feet, he’s a lot to handle.”
The hockey world also took note of the now-5-foot-11, -195-pounder. McGrew, who played for the Anaheim Wildcats, the Selects, Anaheim Jr. Ducks and Orange County Hockey Club before spending the past two seasons with the Jr. Kings, earned a spot on the U.S. Under-17 Select Team that captured the Five Nations Tournament title in Arosa, Switzerland, in August.
McGrew made a strong impression, scoring the overtime-winner in a 4-3 victory over Slovakia, adding two goals against Switzerland and scoring in the clincher against Germany.
“Just being there – playing international games – was unbelievable. I’ll never forget it,” he said, adding it was sweeter playing with three former teammates.
Former Select and Jr. King Brannon McManus (Upland) – a University of Minnesota commit – scored five goals during the tournament, and former Wildcats and Selects teammates Vanya Lodnia and Sasha Chmelevski (high picks in the Ontario Hockey League draft) had multiple-point games.
“It was great to be together again,” McGrew said.
McGrew was the only one of the four who continued playing in California into Midgets.
“He’s a very pleasant kid, very coachable,” Pitcher said. “He stuck around; he didn’t pick up and leave. I have a lot of respect for him and his family.”
McGrew’s next step in hockey was settled later in August when he attended the tryout camp of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, who selected him in the eighth round of the 2014 Bantam Draft.
“That went really well,” McGrew said. “My play picked up as the camp went along, and at the end they offered me a contract for this year. I’m not going to go there full-time until next season, but they want me to come up for a few games and finish the season with them after my Jr. Kings season.”
McGrew said he wanted to continue homeschooling with his mother, Jill, and return to the Jr. Kings.
And the garage is still close by.
– Chris Bayee