In a conversation about hockey and sports, in general, there’s a recurring theme that Nolan Yaremko tends to always gravitate to: the matter about one’s character – that of being a good teammate, having a good attitude and good work ethic every day to get better, and just downright being a good person. These are qualities that, he said, were taught to him from a young age and he gained from being on teams with “strong cultures based around the concept of work ethic and being a good teammate, respecting everyone.” Beyond the drive for athletic excellence and sports itself, Yaremko said: “It is important to be a good person. Character is just as important.”
Talk a little bit about your hockey background.
I started in Spirit River. My first year of Bantam was in Grand Prairie AAA. I also spent one year in Edmonton AAA. When I was 17, I had the opportunity to play for Tri-City Americans, a major junior hockey team based in Kennewick, Washington and plays in the Western Hockey League. I really enjoyed my full four years at Tri-City, especially that year when we made a big push and reached the Western Conference Finals. We had an unbelievable group of guys, and a lot of them have moved on to pro hockey in the National Hockey League. I also played for Mount Royal University for four years. I believe the past teams I’ve been on and teammates I’ve played with have helped me to get to where I am today. I’ve been lucky enough to play with great hockey players, who have shown me what it takes to be a professional from a young age. Every team I’ve been on has had strong cultures based around the concept of work ethic and being a good teammate, respecting everyone.
What does your daily routine look like?
With the amount of games we play, the day varies. On a normal day, I arrive at the rink around 7:30-8 in the morning then have breakfast before our morning workout and practice. Workouts can be intense, light, or an active recovery. We have meetings and spend a lot of time watching game film videos. We skate pretty much every day.
What are the top priorities in your life right now?
Hockey, family and friends are pretty much all I have in my life right now. Hockey keeps me pretty busy every day; so, with my busy schedule, family is a great blessing – it’s truly a blessing. I consider my friends my teammates as well.
What are some of the goals you’re currently focusing on?
I’m trying to establish myself as a full-time American Hockey League player – play as good as I can and continue to elevate my game and establish myself as a consistent professional hockey player. With so many hockey players out there trying to stick at every level, hockey is a pretty flooded sport, which is good because it makes it extremely competitive.
What do you do in order to stay healthy, avoid injury and play at your optimum best throughout the season?
We’re pretty fortunate in professional hockey – there are full-time medical staff, strength and conditioning coaches, and nutritionists who provide pretty much all the tools for us. We come to the rink, and we have workouts designed to keep us in shape on and off the ice. We have a full-time athletic therapy staff who helps with injuries. We are provided with highly nutritious meals as well as getting valuable information about proper nutrition and how to take care of our body, both mentally and physically.
What aspect of your game do you think is your strength?
The strengths I believe I have as an athlete are my work ethic, leadership, and hockey sense – playing and executing the little details of the game. A skill I continue to work on is my skating. As I moved into the pro leagues, I learned it’s important to keep working on my skating to be as fast and efficient as possible.
Do you have some pre-game or post-game routines?
I know some athletes can be superstitious, but I’m not. I do have a set warm-up routine, which could be riding the bike or doing some extra stretches. On a game day, I get to the rink at a certain time, making sure I prepare my mind and body.
If you could pick the best advice you gained from a coach, what would it have been?
An effective coach, in my opinion, should be transparent with his players. It’s important to be on the same page as the coach, and for mutual respect to exist between the players and the coach. What has helped me in terms of my relationship with coaches is to have a good attitude, and just keep my head down and keep working. You have to earn the right for a coach to trust you. And something I was taught from a young age is just be a good person, be a good teammate, work as hard as you can every single day and just try to get better. Good things will come if you stick to that. I learned how important it is to be a good teammate. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. When everyone is playing for each other collectively things fall into place for everyone individually.
What do you consider the toughest aspect of being a professional athlete?
I would say a big part of it is sacrifice and trying to balance everything, whether it’s in your sport specifically, or off the sport with your friends while trying to be a consistent athlete. I did say there’s a lot of competition in hockey where a player can be easily replaced by another on his off-day, or if he shows up unprepared for a game. I believe the greatest challenge athletes face today is competition. There are so many good athletes in every sport all competing for jobs and roster spots. As we know, there are only a certain amount of spots available, so that creates competition to lock those spots up. I always maintain a positive attitude, put the work in, and never give up or quit.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of hockey?
No, I don’t. We’re on the road a lot. I know I’m going to be taking some online classes for school, but I wouldn’t consider that a hobby. I spend my free time trying to stay busy – hanging out with teammates or finding something to do outside of the house.
What advice would you have for a young person who is wanting to start a career in a sport?
The advice I would give to aspiring athletes is to work hard and have fun. I know I always had so much fun and love for the game of hockey. If you enjoy it and put the work in, I think it’s easy for you to fall in love with the game. From there, it can turn into a compulsion, in a sense, where you just want to get better every day. Equally as important is being a good teammate – treating everyone with respect and having a good attitude. Hockey aside, it is important to be a good person. Character is just as important.
So, if you were to pick one person who you would like to watch you play at every game, who would that be and why?
I would say my dad. I think he really enjoys watching and supporting me. I know he tries to get to as many of my games as possible. He’s someone I’ve looked up to my whole life. And another one is my older brother. He played a bunch of hockey himself. The pandemic unfortunately, sort of, cut his career short.
What role did your parents and siblings have in your journey to professional hockey?
My parents have supported me ever since I was a child, trying to provide everything possible to me to make me the best athlete I can be. I will always be grateful for that. And they still, to this day, are very supportive, always helping me and pushing me to achieve my goals and my dreams. My siblings and I all played hockey. We’ve always been around the game growing up, playing in the basement or some extra ice. So, I think we all, sort of, fed off each other.
When you played hockey and your siblings played hockey, was there ever any kind of brother or sister rivalry that you guys had growing up?
Growing up, we definitely played a lot of hockey. But I can’t remember how many times in the basement we would come up crying or something along those lines. Maybe someone would get a little rough. I would say though that playing hockey at home with my siblings has created the competitor I am today.
About Nolan Yaremko
- Born on May 17 1998 and raised in Spirit River
- Parents: Carl and Tammy Yaremko
- Post-Secondary: Mount Royal University – Business Major
- Pro Team: Laval Rocket (Based in Laval, Quebec and plays in the American Hockey League as an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens in the National Hockey League)
- Notable Successes
- 2021-2022 Canada West Player of the Year and U SPORTS Player of the Year (The award recognizes Yaremko as the top player in Canada at university-level hockey.)
- Played for Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League (2015-2019)
- Played for Stockton Heat in the American Hockey League (2018-2019)