By Brian Lester/USCHO.com
ASHLAND, Wis. — Jake Lamberty brings passion and energy to the ice. He plays with all-out effort. His positive attitude is infectious.
Northland College Lumberjacks’ head hockey coach Seamus Gregory has no doubt is standout player will maintain that positive attitude and give everything he has as he battles through the fight of his life.
Lamberty has cancer. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few weeks ago.
“He told me he’s going to beat it. He’s taking it head on,” Lamberty said. “Knowing he has that attitude has made a little easier for all of us,” Gregory said.
Lamberty came into this year ready for his second season of hockey with the Lumberjacks, but
in training camp Gregory noticed something was off with Lamberty, that he didn’t ‘have a lot of pop.’
Still, Lamberty scored a goal in the season opener, helping Northland earn a 4-2 win over St. Olaf. Gregory thought maybe Lamberty was back to his old self.
A couple of weeks later, however, Lamberty started having pain in his chest.
“We thought maybe it was a muscle strain. He’s an aggressive player. We just thought maybe he hurt something.”
Turns out, it was more. A cyst was found. He was eventually diagnosed with cancer.
Gregory has become all too familiar with tough moments at Northland, including his own daughter’s battle with leukemia.
“When (Jake) told me, I was kind of numb,” Gregory said. “I’m cried out with everything personally. It hits close to home.”
Gregory hates that Lamberty has been dealt such a tough hand.
“We’re talking about one of the nicest kids and he comes from one of the nicest families,” Gregory said. “He’s one of the best teammates you could ask for. He works hard. He’s a great student. It has hit the team hard.”
Gregory said the great thing about the hockey world is that it’s small and tight-knit. The Northland community is the same way. To say the least, there is no shortage of support for Lamberty, a charismatic, high-energy player who will skate through a wall to get the job done.
Gregory said he and his players have done their best to to deal with the tough news.
“It’s almost surreal,” Gregory said. “We all have different ways of dealing with things. I stay in contact with him and his teammates stay in touch. We take his jersey on the road and hang it behind the bench. Jake is with us every step of the way and we are with him every step of the way.”
Gregory is confident Lamberty will win his fight with cancer. For now, the team will stay as positive as it can as it moves forward through its season without Lamberty on the ice.
“The season is dedicated to him, and we’ll move forward as best as we can,” Gregory said. “We’ll continue to put forward the positive energy that Jake always has. It’s not easy when you are 2-8-2, but at the end of the day, we will keep the motivation and morale up as much as we can.”
An alumnus of the NOJHL, Lamberty spent three seasons with the Soo Eagles, from 2017-20, appearing in 143 league contests while collecting 85 points on 31 goals and 54 assists.
Photo credit: Northland College Athletics