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Grand Rapids teen plays hard to honor mom

Though lung cancer had claimed her a month earlier, Jake Bischoff insists his mother, Jackie, was there to see him score his first goal for the Grand Rapids varsity boys hockey team.

Jake Bischoff
Jake Randolph (16) of Duluth East chases the puck and Jake Bischoff (22) of Grand Rapids during a game Thursday at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center. East defeated Grand Rapids 2-1. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Though lung cancer had claimed her a month earlier, Jake Bischoff insists his mother, Jackie, was there to see him score his first goal for the Grand Rapids varsity boys hockey team.

The goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over highly ranked Edina last month.

"She's watching, I know she's watching," said Bischoff, a sophomore defenseman in his first season on the Thunderhawks' varsity.

Jackie Bischoff, a vibrant and athletic 40-year-old when first diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in May 2010, lost her struggle Nov. 19.

"She was super healthy and worked out all the time," Jake said. "She battled extremely hard."

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Now the 16-year-old is working extremely hard to honor her memory. He's starting alongside senior Zach Dick for the ninth-ranked Thunderhawks (11-3-1), who lost 2-1 to third-ranked Duluth East on Thursday at Heritage Center.

"He's well-deserving to be out there playing," Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque said. "He's proven himself from the get-go."

Jake is the oldest of four children of Grant Bischoff, a 1987 Grand Rapids graduate and University of Minnesota hockey star, and the former Jackie Tok, a Bovey native who went to Greenway High School and played tennis at Minnesota Duluth.

Besides being a kindergarten teacher and an aerobics instructor, Jackie Bischoff was heavily involved with the youth hockey program. She served on the Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey

Association board, organized bus trips and coordinated dryland training for the peewee and bantam teams.

"She was one of the biggest fans and supporters, and always the type who had school spirit," said her husband, a self-employed real estate appraiser with Bischoff Appraisals.

Grant, who scored 80 goals as a winger for the Gophers, coached his son for about six years in youth hockey. He emphasized that despite the personal tragedy, Jake is having fun on the ice playing alongside caring teammates and coaches.

"Hockey teams become like families, and they've been great for him," he said. "The coaches have been great as a support group, too. He's having a good time as far as the season goes, but obviously it's not easy for him with what happened to his mother. But he's doing all right."

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LaRoque, himself the target of a few unhappy parents during the offseason, said unfortunate events such as Bischoff's death can help a team bond.

"You battle through hardships together, whether it's on the rink or off the rink," he said. "It enlightened some kids that there's more important things than hockey or sports. That can happen when you lose someone who is close -- not only a good friend of the hockey team but also a woman who sacrificed and gave so much time."

Dom Toninato scored a goal and assisted on Jake Randolph's game-winner in the second period, and the Greyhounds killed off a 5-on-3 power play that included a five-minute major in the third period to hold on for the win. Bischoff assisted on Nate Mondry's power-play goal in the first period.

The teams could meet again in the Section 7AA tournament, where Bischoff hopes the outcome would be different.

"We've proved we are one of the best teams in the state and can compete with anybody," he said. "If we come out and play our game, we could do some major damage."

Grand Rapids 1-0-0--1

Duluth East 1-1-0--2

First period -- 1. GR, Nate Mondry (Jake Bischoff, Patrick Moore), 12:20 (pp); 2. DE, Dom Toninato (Nate Repensky), 13:16.

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Second period -- 3. DE, Jake Randolph (Trevor Olson, Toninato), 12:29.

Third period -- No scoring.

Saves -- Dom DeGuiseppi, GR, 17; JoJo Jeanetta, DE, 24.

Related Topics: GRAND RAPIDSHOCKEY
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