Fourteen years had passed between the day Jaden Schwartz played his first game as a Notre Dame Hound, and his last meaningful appearance for the St. Louis Blues at the time of this writing: in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
Every day between then, and since, he has been grateful for his family’s choice to buy-in to the college.
“My parents made that decision, and thank God that they did,” says Schwartz, over the phone from Blues’ training camp in September 2019.
“I don’t think my parents wanted their children to move away at such a young age to play hockey elsewhere. So, they decided to move to Wilcox so we could all play at Notre Dame, and still live at home, and play at such a well-known school like ND. My parents made that call, and I am just thankful that they did. It is such an amazing place, with incredible people, and I don’t know if I would be where I am without Notre Dame. It is an amazing place, and I still keep in touch with so many people there just because the experience was so great.”
Rick and Carol Schwartz initially relocated the family from Melfort, SK so that their supremely talented eldest child, daughter Mandi, could attend and play in the school where women’s hockey had always had equal priority to the male game.
That Mandi proved to be a star on and off the ice, and the family’s comfort in settling into the small community, led to the enrolment of little brothers Rylan and Jaden and the rest, to use a tired cliché, is history.
The Schwartz brothers dominated with their respective bantam and midget teams, before featuring together for the first time on the Junior A squad for the 2008-09 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season.
Although Jaden remembers playing with Rylan that year fondly, he could not remember which of the two had more points that season.
“I kind of forgot about the fact that he outscored me, to be honest,” Jaden chuckles after being told.
“It was pretty special to play with him, I got to play with him (at Colorado College) as well, and I recognized that not everyone gets the opportunity to play with a brother, so it was a lot of fun. He was a great player at Notre Dame for bantam, midget, and junior, and I know it was big for our parents, and other friends and family to be able to come to watch both of us together. We enjoyed that time.”
Mandi would go on to play an outstanding two-and-a-half seasons at Yale University, before retiring, and ultimately passing away tragically from Leukemia in April 2011. Her legacy, as an incredible person, daughter, sister, friend, student, and hockey player, is one that will live on forever in the fabric of the College of Notre Dame. The largest female midget hockey tournament in western Canada is played in her name on the ice at the Duncan McNeill Arena on campus every year, known as the Mandi Schwartz Invitational.
So, when the buzzer went in that 2019 Stanley Cup Game 7 in Boston’s TD Garden, that clinched Jaden and the Blues the Cup, it was not simply the run-of-the-mill elation that filled his heart.
“She is always with me wherever I go,” says Jaden.
“I am just always looking to share her memories and how much she impacted me as a person, and my family. She is always on my mind, always getting brought up, and winning the cup was a big thing for me and my family, and it was something I wanted to do for her. It was an emotional time for everyone in Wilcox since she impacted a lot of people at Notre Dame too. The ND family is so close, and have always been a big help, and have been there so much for our family.”
Jaden has played in 524 regular and playoff NHL games, all with the Blues, and has represented Canada seven times at various tournaments, including the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships, and the 2018 IIHF World Hockey Championships.
Rylan played at all levels for the school between 2003 and 2009 before, like Jaden, moving on to college hockey in the United States, and a lengthy professional career. He has begun his 2019-2020 season with the Nurnberg Ice Tigers of the top league in Germany known as the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.