Kip Hoffmann was exposed to high-level hockey talent before he ever ventured off to what has become a lengthy junior career in the North American Hockey League.
Hoffman won a USA Hockey Youth National Championship on the 16U Tier I level with the Chicago Mission.
“I played with a lot of good hockey players,” Hoffmann said of the national championship experience.
Hoffmann’s teammates included Christian Fischer, a former USA Hockey National Team Development Program player who is already in his second National Hockey League season with the Arizona Coyotes. They were joined by Notre Dame’s Torey Dello, Wisconsin’s Ryan Wagner and Jason Dhooghe and Ferris State’s Joe Rutkowski as well as other players who continue to make a mark on the game.
“From playing with all those talented hockey players, it helped me practicing every single day with them and just being around them,” Hoffmann said in a telephone interview. “It improved my individual game, seeing what they do with the puck and without the puck. From five years, from 2013 to 2018, I always look back and remember those little things I learned from them and what we did together as a team.”
The success with the Mission landed Hoffmann, a 21-year-old forward from the Chicago suburb of Huntley, Illinois, with the Janesville Jets.
After four seasons with successful Jets teams, increasing his point production each season and rising to the level of team captain, Hoffmann is preparing to return to the scene of his national championship.
Hoffmann recently committed to play at Robert Morris University, which plays its home games in Neville Township, Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh suburb that hosted the 2013 national tournament.
“My heart tells me that winning a championship there is a sign that success will come when I become a Colonial,” Hoffmann said.
Playing 200 NAHL regular-season games and scoring 129 points in them between his times in Neville Township have helped make Hoffmann ready for a college career.
“My first three years with coach [Joe] Dibble and my final year with coach [Gary] Shuchuk, they both preached playing a 200-foot game and defense leads to offense,” Hoffmann said. “I think my first couple years the points really didn’t show that because I was still a young player learning, adapting to the junior level.
“My third and fourth year came around and I think I put those skills to use, put some pucks in the back of the net and found my teammates.”
The Jets are ready for another shot at the Robertson Cup Playoffs after reaching the league Final Four a year ago when Hoffmann led all NAHL playoff scorers in goals (nine) and points (13) in nine games. He is second on the Jets this season and fourth in the NAHL with 57 points in 56 games.
“He’s definitely worked on becoming a more complete player, playing a 200-foot game and working on the defensive side of the game,” Shuchuk said, according to a story on the team’s website.
With one of the league’s youngest rosters, Hoffmann sees it necessary for the team’s few older players to show the way as the playoffs start.
Shuchuk said Hoffmann has already provided a possible example.
“We have a young team and this shows these young guys that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, to get noticed by college coaches,” Shuchuk said. “Kip kept working hard and kept improving his overall game and it paid off.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.