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PROFILE: Orillia man stickhandles passion into 'dream' job

'I want to try to help grow the game of hockey and bring more people to fall in love with the game,' says owner of How to Hockey platform

Jeremy Rupke, a hockey player, coach, and entrepreneur, has turned his passion for the game of hockey into a fulfilling career.

The 35-year-old started his hockey career at a young age while growing up in Beaverton.

“I grew up playing for Beaverton Blades Minor Hockey, and there were a few years I didn’t play because my parents were going through a divorce and we were moving from house to house,” Rupke explained.

“Once things settled down, I played on a regular basis again starting when I was in Grade 7.”

Because of all the interruptions to Rupke’s hockey development as a child, he was a late bloomer. He hit his stride when he was 17, but his journey was once again interrupted.

One day, while Rupke was riding his bike, he was struck by a pickup truck. He fractured his skull, broke his shoulder in three places, and was left with minor brain damage.

“I was going to try out for the Jr. C team that year, but the doctor said that I couldn’t play contact hockey anymore,” he explained.

“I don’t think I had a promising hockey career to be honest, I just loved to play. And I didn’t want to quit because I felt like I was just starting to figure things out. I didn’t want to hear that I wasn’t allowed to play contact hockey anymore ... it derailed my plans,” he said.

Because of his injuries, Rupke decided to transition from player to coach. While looking for online resources to help his players while coaching in Huntsville, he realized there were next to none.

“There were a few articles and videos, but nothing really complete,” Rupke explained.

“I thought well, I know how to coach, and I know how to build a website, I might as well make a hockey website," he explained. "So, that’s when I decided to make a site where anyone in the world could search how to take a slap shot, a wrist shot, how to skate, and all the information would be there for them.”

When Rupke first started the How to Hockey website, he did so as a hobby and a way to give back to the game.

“I loved hockey and I just wanted to do it for the love of the game. But after a couple of years of doing the website and making YouTube videos I started building a good following and had lots of people interested,” Rupke said.

“I found myself spending all my time on the hockey website, so I realized that I could make it my full-time job and I could spend all my time doing what I love, so that’s when I decided I’m going to have a go at it," he told OrilliaMatters.

More than 375,000 YouTube subscribers and 235,000 Instagram followers later, Rupke’s platform was a hit after five solid years of production. The secret to his success is simply passion and sincerity, Rupke says.  

“I think my love and passion for hockey really comes through to people. I’m not elite about it or anything like that - it’s simple, it’s down to earth, and it’s easy to follow instructions. I just get right to the point in two-to-three-minute videos,” he said.

Since Rupke’s How to Hockey found success, he’s partnered with brands such as HockeyShot, Little Caesars, Canadian Tire, CCM, Esso, Scotiabank, and Hyundai, just to name a few.

“I’m very honoured and I’m happy to be in this very special position, but I also do want to keep the content mostly for the people and the fans,” Rupke explained.

“There is a balance where I don’t want to be over-commercial where I’m promoting products. I want to make sure the content is always valuable.”

One of the biggest waves of momentum that helped build Rupke’s platform to become one of the most popular hockey-based content providers on the Internet was a video he posted on YouTube two years ago of his four-year-old son Mason playing TimBits hockey while being mic’d up.

The video generated over 14 million views and was picked up by mainstream media worldwide, thrusting Rupke into the spotlight.

“I feel like it was a flash in the pan. After that happened, I was doing all sorts of interviews, my phone was ringing off the hook, but after a couple of weeks it kind of went back to normal and I was back to making the content that I usually make,” Rupke said.

“I probably could have continued to mic Mason up and pump out video after video because people were loving that kind of content, but I do try to find a balance as well and do what’s best for the kids," he said. 

"I wouldn’t want to be that dad who’s recording all my kid’s hockey practices trying to make him famous. I want Mason, his teammates, and all the parents at the rink to have a good experience.”

Rupke mostly keeps his content directed toward helping beginners learn how to advance their game to the next level, but he says he will sprinkle in some comedy and other fun videos from time to time.

Rupke also spends time coaching local minor teams in Orillia as an assistant coach.

“I would love to coach more often, but when things were really roaring a couple of years ago, I would get taken away from coaching quite a bit for my job,” he explained.

“I don’t want to miss practices, I want to be there for the kids, I want to set a good example. So, that’s why I decided to be an assistant coach and help run skills sessions whenever possible.”

Rupke says he is planning on coaching and helping Orillia youth with their hockey careers for as long as he is able.

As for his How To Hockey platform, Rupke plans on continuing to build it for his fans and students of the game.

“I want to maintain the quality of my platform and maintain innovative ways to help hockey players and families. I myself have two little ones and a third one on the way, so I’ve been doing a lot more family content and been trying to keep it really authentic,” he said.

“I want to try to help grow the game of hockey and bring more people to fall in love with the game.”

Away from being a virtual or in-person coach, Rupke is a father to his son, Mason, and daughter Olivia and a husband to his wife, Sammy. Most of Rupke’s family life, like everything else, is centred around hockey. Even when he needs a break from work, he likes to play hockey.  

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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