No matter the situation on the ice, Grand Rapids senior defenseman Jack Peart was unflappable during the 2020-21 high school hockey season.
He could be three strides behind a breakaway and still make a play on the puck or draw two opponents over to him and make a perfect pass to an open teammate for a goal.
About the only moment Peart was without an answer was following the Section 7AA championship game, where Andover defeated Grand Rapids and deprived the Thunderhawks from playing in the Class AA state tournament. Afterward, Peart sat on the bench for several agonizing minutes, contemplating what might have been.
But the end of his prep career had a silver lining Monday as Peart was named the winner of the 37th annual Mr. Hockey Award, given to the state’s outstanding senior. He received the award at TRIA Rink in St. Paul, the Minnesota Wild’s practice facility.
“He had an exceptional year,” Grand Rapids coach Wade Chiodo said of the future St. Cloud State player. “He came back and led our team on the ice and off the ice. He grew as a person and as a hockey player. It’s well-deserved that he won, and it was truly an honor for all of our coaches to get a chance to coach him.”
Peart played for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League during the fall and is back with that team now in the spring.
“With COVID, I didn’t know if there was going to be a high school season or not,” Peart said by phone from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where he was waiting to board a plane to Michigan for Wednesday’s BioSteel All-American Game that pits the USHL all-stars against the U.S. National Team Development Program. “I took it one day at a time if I was going to come back. When we heard there was going to be a season, I knew I wanted to come back and get to the state tournament.
“We had a good season; we fell short of what we wanted to, but what we did do was really good for our program.”
Peart had a team-leading 35 points on 11 goals and 24 assists for the Thunderhawks (15-2-1) and is the second Northland player in a row to win the award after Hermantown's Blake Biondi a year ago. Peart became the third player from Grand Rapids to win the award, after Aaron Miskovich in 1997 and Avery Peterson in 2014.
Peterson is one of the former Thunderhawks who inspired Peart.
“That’s one of the coolest things we’ve done in Rapids. When I was growing up, I got to watch Jake Bischoff and Avery Peterson and always looked up to them,” he said. “Hopefully, this helps our program keep growing.”
Those who watched Peart closely, especially teammates, were mesmerized at times by his play and by his character.
“I watched Jack all the way through, and he’s always been an outstanding player and an outstanding person,” senior forward Hunter Bischoff said. “This year was the same as always — Jack leading the team and taking charge.”
Peart excelled on power plays and during shorthanded situations. But he did so many things that didn’t show up on a stat sheet.
“Jack’s strongest part of his game, I think, is just how strong he is on his stick and his skating,” Bischoff said. “His stride is perfect, and it’s been that way since we were little. He’s a great skater and plays so calmly out there. He’s always had that calmness to his game.”
That cool behavior wasn’t lost on Chiodo.
“He stays level all the time,” the coach said. “Even after he won the award, his emotions stayed level. That’s just how his demeanor is, and he plays the same way. He’s always under control and knows what’s going on. He’s very professional and very mature.”
There’s no award for most ice time, but Peart undoubtedly would be in the running for that as well. He always seemed to be making plays on the defensive end and then leading the charge up the ice.
“He played as much as he possibly could,” Chiodo said. “We basically told him that he had to indicate what he can handle and what he can’t handle regarding ice time. When you have that caliber of a player coming through, you have to let those kids get on the ice. That type of player doesn’t come around very often in programs.
“He’s created a footprint that’s going to last forever.”
Maple Grove’s Jack Wieneke won the Frank Brimsek Award as the state’s top senior goalie after backstopping the Crimson’s run to the Class AA title game.
Henry Boucha was honored with the Mr. Hockey Ambassador Award for his dedication to the game.