By: Stephanie Coratti
It was a classic beginning for Jack Hanley.
Introduced to the game of hockey by his dad, Matt Hanley, and playing by the time the Whitby, Ontario native was four years old.
“My dad always played hockey when he grew up,” Hanley explained. “So, he put me in hockey and that’s how it all got started.”
Hanley continued the typical Canadian hockey story, growing up in the sport while capping off his minor hockey career with the OMHA Championship in his minor midget season – something Hanley recalls as his favourite minor hockey memory. All with younger twin brothers, Luke and Will, playing right behind him through to the midget level before moving on, with both now in their first year at the University of Guelph.
Now an overage defenseman for the Storm, and as one of the few remaining drafted Belleville Bulls’ players in the Ontario Hockey League, Hanley’s once traditional hockey career has been anything but.
“Moving away from home was the most challenging thing for me… you move away at such a young age and you have to live with a new family and all that,” the former Bulls’ fourth round pick in 2014 explained, also adding on the relocation of the Bulls to Hamilton. “But then getting settled in my first year and having another turn around and moving to Hamilton – that was another big challenge, too.”
Before playing two full seasons in the OHL, Hanley had already undergone two full transitions – something the 1998-born defenseman immediately credits his billets for guiding him through.
“I was super lucky to have awesome billets in both Belleville and Hamilton,” Hanley offered. “They made the transitions easy for me – I lucked out.”
Later acquired by the Storm in August 2018 for his fifth and final season, the five-foot-11, 192-pound blueliner has since racked up over 260 regular season games played, while becoming an OHL Champion with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2017-18.
“Just being able to make it into the OHL and playing for five years – which some guys get to do, but some guys don’t… I’ve been very fortunate to get to play this long,” Hanley said of what he’s most proud of, adding that the OHL Championship is the moment that sticks out beyond all the rest. “There are no words. It was just so much fun to be playing hockey that long, to be with a team like that… I don’t know what else you can say.”
Looking back now with an impressive, experienced resume, Hanley has one piece of advice for his 16-year-old self.
“I’d tell myself to have fun, honestly… relax a little, don’t be so uptight about it,” he said. “As I got older, I learned not to let hockey stress you out so much. Everything will work out how it should.”
That lesson learned stemmed from an off-ice development that Hanley is quick to recognize.
“It’s made me into a more mature person… it’s made me look at life in a different perspective… from having to move away from home and all that, you have to become mature quickly and it sets you up for the rest of your life,” Hanley offered of his major junior career. “I just think it was a good life lesson… it made me into the person I am today – how to handle people, certain situations, and how to build relationships with people.”
Full of character and the definition of humility, Hanley knows that behind it all were the two pillars there from the start.
“My parents – they helped me out when I moved away, for always being there, for having four kids and still making time with their jobs to get everyone where they needed to be,” Hanley said of his mom and dad, Matt and Penny Hanley. “It’s all their sacrifice and all their time.”
Now, not quite finished yet, Hanley doesn’t shy away from the goals he has left.
“For the team, to win a championship – that’s the end goal,” the Storm assistant captain said. “And for me, to have no regrets. I don’t want to look back in 10 years and say, ‘Oh I should have done that,’ – I want to enjoy it while I can, I’ve only got so much left.”