Thatcher Demko and Ian Jenkins were two of the top young goaltending prospects in America and developed a growing friendship. In May 2011, they both attended the Warren Strelow National Goaltending Camp, an invite-only camp for the best young goaltenders in the country.
Less than a week after the camp ended, Jenkins fell from the back of a truck and hit his head. He passed away four days later.
Ian’s death hit Demko hard, along with many of the other hockey players who came into contact with him. Those that knew him described him in such glowing terms that he had a dramatic impact on a player who never even met him: Bo Horvat.
“Have a Purpose” was Ian’s motto in life and he was driven to succeed, but not at the expense of how he treated others.
From Vice Sports’ superb article on Demko earlier this week:
"He was just a young teenager but he had this maturity about him," Demko said of Ian. "Whether he was on the ice, he was up in the weight room, he was reading some sort of goalie-related article, or watching a video trying to get better, he always had a purpose with what he was doing. When he passed away, I tried to embrace that the best that I could."
To honour his fallen friend, Demko has had the initials "HAP" embroidered into his gloves and pads and emblazoned on the back of his helmet. He scrawls "HAP 35"—Ian's number—onto the tape on the knob of his stick.
“Ian taught me to have a purpose in everything I am doing, both on and off the ice,” said Demko back in 2012. “He also showed me how important work ethic and character is and how it pays off. The most important thing this has taught me is to not take anything for granted.”
Demko certainly hasn’t done that, becoming one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey. It seems like it won’t be long before he’s in the NHL, where he’ll play alongside another player inspired by Ian Jenkins.
Bo Horvat had played against Ian at tournaments, but never met him in-person. But they were selected with the London Knights’ first two picks of the 2011 OHL draft and were all set to meet at training camp shortly after Ian’s tragic accident.
Horvat and his father went to Ian’s funeral in Michigan. There he was struck by how his friends and family spoke about Ian and knew he needed to do something to pay tribute to him.
“I’m sure we would have been great friends if he was here,” he told Elliotte Friedman. He chose to pay tribute to Ian by taking his number 35 and flipping it around. He continues to wear number 53 in his memory.
While Ian’s life was tragically cut short before he could actually play in the OHL and work his way towards his dream of playing in the NHL, in a way, Horvat has brought Ian with him.
At the 2013 NHL draft, Horvat wore a pin with the initials “HAP” given to him by Ian's father, Joel Jenkins, taking Ian with him up on stage.
“Ian has been with me everywhere so far,” he said.
Horvat and Demko will play a massive role in the Canucks’ future and thus, so will Ian Jenkins.
For more of Ian's story, watch this Sportsnet special.