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Gurnee hockey player makes Jr. Blackhawks team

Jaxon Wilson (left) competed for a spot on the Jr. Blackhawks at the United Center in Chicago last December.
Jaxon Wilson (left) competed for a spot on the Jr. Blackhawks at the United Center in Chicago last December.

GURNEE – During recent tryouts for the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks Brick Hockey Club team at the United Center in Chicago, Jaxon Wilson, 9, noticed other kids' hockey sticks out on the ice with a Zamboni – an ice resurfacing machine –  heading toward them.

Wilson skated out and gathered them.

"No one asked him to do that and no one thanked him," his father Shawn Wilson said – that's just the kind of team player Jaxon Wilson is.

Jaxon Wilson, of Gurnee, has been chosen to play with an elite group, the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks Brick Hockey Club. In July, he'll travel to Edmonton, Canada for the Brick Tournament, representing Illinois and the surrounding area with 16 other kids. At the week-long tournament, seven teams from the U.S. and seven from Canada will play against each other.

The Brick Tournament is "one of the most prestigious hockey events available for players at the 10 and under age level," with National Hockey League level production, according to the Chicago Blackhawks website. 

The tryouts for the Jr. Blackhawks were challenging – Jaxon Wilson took part in the first evaluation December 2012, and had another evaluation this December at the United Center in Chicago. 

Jaxon Wilson has been playing hockey since he was 2 years old, on the street with his neighbors, the Thrawls. When he comes home from Woodland Intermediate School, the first thing he asks his parents is if he has practice or a game. If he doesn't, he skates out on the ice behind the family's home, Shawn Wilson said.

The fourth-grader plays center for Vernon Hills Ice Dogs. His coach, Steve Dubinsky, played for the Chicago Blackhawks for seven years. Dubinsky's son Aiden Dubinsky also made the Jr. Blackhawks team.

Steve Dubinsky, of Highland Park, said his son and Jaxon Wilson are "attached at the hip on the ice. They're very talented for being 9 years old. They work hard and they're nice boys. They both earned it."

Dubinsky said all eight of the Vernon Hills Ice Dogs who tried out for the tournament made it through the first cut. Jaxon Wilson is a strong skater and a loyal teammate, he said.

"I think it's a great honor," Steve Dubinsky said. "They only take 14 kids from the state of Illinois [three are taken from surrounding states] and that's 14 out of hundreds of kids who try out."

Jaxon Wilson's favorite hockey moment was getting to the top tier of the Bauer Selects Team Championship last spring in Toronto, Canada, he said.

He looks up to Jonathan Toews, captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, who also played in the Brick Tournament as a kid.

"He's the captain and center and that's what I want to be someday," Jaxon Wilson said.

Lucky for him, a perk of being on the Jr. Blackhawks team is that he'll get one of the Chicago Blackhawks as a penpal, though Jaxon Wilson doesn't know which player will be his yet.

To prepare for the Brick Tournament, Jaxon Wilson said he'll "skate on the rink out back and work on my shot 10,000 times." The team provides a website where he can track how many shots he's done.

Shawn Wilson and his wife Christy Wilson try to make it to all of Jaxon Wilson's games, they said.

"He's talented – the challenge as a parent is to find the right mix of encouragement or push," Shawn Wilson said. "It's an absolute joy to watch him play. All you see are his two big front teeth and his smile . He's got a unique little attitude and he's a leader." 

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