Jaret Anderson-Dolan is known to turn heads.
The 17-year-old forward has done so ever since appearing in his first Spokane Chiefs game at 15 in 2015. In his first game as a full-time player, Anderson-Dolan notched a hat trick. He eclipsed 70 points this season, a major milestone for a second-year player.
And while his on-the-ice ability is impressive, what Anderson-Dolan is capable of off the ice caught the eye of the Chiefs early on.
Every season during fitness testing in preseason camp at Whitworth University, Chiefs players undergo VO2 testing, which measures the capacity of a person’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to the muscles.
Typically, only the veterans participate in this portion, but Anderson-Dolan was invited to participate as a 16-year-old rookie. He hopped on the exercise bike for the test, breathing tube strapped to his face, as then-Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur walked in and announced, “I’m gonna bet A-D wins this.”
And he did. By a lot.
Anderson-Dolan’s test number was in the mid 60s. Not a single Chiefs player even eclipsed 60 that year.
The next season, Anderson-Dolan’s number rose to the high 60s, which would be in contention for the highest score at the NHL combine in most years.
“It was off-the-charts,” Nachbaur said. “That comes with being an elite athlete. That doesn’t happen just by hopping on a bike and testing.”
Anderson-Dolan’s commitment to being an elite athlete and hockey player developed at an early age. He stays loyal to eating only organic foods and even studies sport psychology to enhance his mental fortitude.
Anderson-Dolan is a hard-working, dedicated hockey player that’s dazzled in a breakout 76-point (39 goals, 37 assists) season for the Chiefs while preparing for his NHL draft year.
And inspired his teammates along the way.
A nontraditional family
Leading up the Chiefs’ matchup with Kelowna on Feb. 26, you could find Anderson-Dolan proudly wrapping rainbow-colored tape around his blade.
The 17-year-old forward hatched a plan to participate in a campaign dubbed “Hockey is for Everyone.” The rainbow hockey tape was a representation of that.
What’s more, the entire Chiefs’ team mimicked Jaret and adorned their sticks with the rainbow-colored tape for warmups – the tape wasn’t great quality and hockey players are superstitious about their equipment. Even defensemen Nolan Reid and Tyson Helgesen joined Jaret in wearing the tape for the whole game.
The moment was powerful for Anderson-Dolan because of his unique upbringing. He and his older brother Dorian were raised by their two mothers, Fran and Nancy Anderson-Dolan, in their childhood home of Calgary, Alberta.
He grew up with many gay and lesbian relatives where the LGBTQ community was not only accepted, but celebrated. Having his teammates join in was special.
“It was unbelievable,” Jaret said. “I know my family appreciated it that my team got together and made a statement.”
But in a male-dominated sport, that support hasn’t always been prevalent.
Jaret hears other players talk smack to him on the ice about his two moms, although it happens less in the WHL because he’s a respected player within the league.
But that’s far from the worst prejudice and discrimination he’s experienced.
When Anderson-Dolan was going through the WHL bantam draft process, some teams told him and his family they would not take him because of his two mothers.
Anderson-Dolan, with the talent to be picked in the top five of the draft, slipped all the way to No. 14 to Spokane.
“I can’t change people’s opinions. If that’s how they feel about it, I’d honestly rather not be in that organization if they’re going to be like that,” Jaret said. “I’d rather be in an organization with the Chiefs where they support it completely.
“Maybe that ended up with me falling in the draft a little bit, but I don’t really care, honestly.”
Those situations were never difficult to deal with because it’s a facet of his life he’s always embraced.
“I’m proud of my moms. I’m proud of my uncles, my aunties, everyone I know that is openly gay,” Jaret said. “I have no shame about it, and neither do they.”
Even without a male parent, Jaret is not short of male role models. Many of his hockey coaches and relatives have guided him along the way, but none more than his uncle Thomas Dolan.
Thomas is a life coach in Honolulu, Hawaii, and communicates with Jaret in some form almost every day.
“He’s been unbelievable for me,” Jaret said. “He’s definitely somebody I love being around and that I respect a lot. He’s a guy that every man should aspire to be.”
The challenge for Thomas has been not just to give Jaret guidance, but to reinforce many of the principles he was instilled with growing up.
“I think the advantage for Jaret being surrounded by the volume of love by women in his life, has allowed him to see the world from a bit of a different lens,” Thomas said. “And that lens of inclusion gives him an advantage, because ultimately the view he gets to see is way more expansive than a traditional family with traditional roles.
“He hasn’t been restricted by what a man should be and what a woman should be.”
A routine like no other
Like clockwork, Jaret Anderson-Dolan glides into the parking lot of the Spokane Arena at 3:45 p.m. before games.
This has been his routine all season long. Matt Leduc, who Anderson-Dolan drives to practice, can attest to that.
“He likes to be early,” Leduc said. “He’s kind of a man of routine, I guess.”
It’s a healthy ritual that Anderson-Dolan has developed.
But it wasn’t always that way. His first year with the Chiefs, Anderson-Dolan came in determined to make an impact. He scheduled his days around hockey. Go to school, go to the rink, go home. All of his friends at Ferris High School, where the Chiefs players typically attend during the season, were on the team. Every thought traced back to hockey.
By the end of the season, he was worn down.
“I think I was so eager to prove myself,” Anderson-Dolan said, “I was hockey, hockey, hockey 24-7. I felt like I got worn down with the season a little bit.”
This year he’s achieved a better balance while playing in Spokane. Anderson-Dolan said he tries to take his mind off things by hanging out with friends, watching movies and playing ping-pong and basement hockey with his teammates.
“That’s helped a lot. I don’t feel smothered at all. I feel ready to play every night,” Anderson-Dolan. “Last year, I couldn’t say that every night.
“Finding that balance of having fun and getting my mind off hockey really helps.”
But for someone like Jaret, not playing or thinking about hockey is a challenge. The sport has played an integral part of his life from an early age.
Fran and Nancy met while on a hockey rink. When Jaret was a baby, he was around the rink watching his mothers play.
Fran said he was mesmerized the first time she plopped him down in his high chair to watch the Montreal Canadiens, her favorite team, on television.
He started skating when he was 18 months old on double-edged skates and started playing soon after. Ever since then, even though he played other sports growing up, his love for hockey took off.
Fran, Jaret’s biological mother, is likely a source for that passion and athleticism. She played a high level of women’s hockey in Canada and captained a Western Canadian Championship team. According to her brother, Thomas, she was the best athlete among her nine siblings, with many of them playing sports at the college level.
She’s motivated Jaret to succeed in hockey and taught him the fundamentals of the game.
Hockey skills aren’t the only thing that Jaret has inherited from Fran. Both are insatiable when it comes to competition and neither mess around when it comes to hockey.
“He’s one of the most serious guys I’ve ever seen put on the gear,” Chiefs forward Kailer Yamamoto said. “It’s really cool to see him put that time and effort in every day.”
Before attending the Edge School, Jaret was at an alternative school called the Waldorf School. When he and his classmate participated in sports, Jaret had to switch off between teams because not only was he more athletically gifted than his peers, he was much more competitive.
They even stuck Jaret in timeout a few times because he was being too competitive.
Fran is the same, minus the timeouts. At every chance she gets, Fran reminds Nancy that she won whenever they faced each other on the ice.
“Now you can see where he gets the competitiveness from,” Nancy says.
NHL draft and the future
NHL scouts and general managers take notice when Jaret shoots the puck.
His shot is his best attribute. It’s fast and it’s deadly accurate. But he wasn’t born with it.
Jaret shoots hundreds of pucks per day, either at the rink or in his family’s backyard in Calgary. His shot is so powerful that if he misses while shooting at the goal in the backyard, Jaret’s pucks sail through the protective tarp that is behind the net.
“Even if I miss it’s going right through now,” Jaret said.
The neighbors aren’t too happy about all the black marks on their white picket fence. But Chiefs fans are elated whenever his shot whizzes past the opposing team’s goalie.
“You don’t get that shot (by not working on it),” Nachbaur said. “He’s got an NHL shot. It’s accurate. It’s hard. He knows where it’s going. That doesn’t come just by showing up. He put a lot of time into that shot.”
With Anderson-Dolan being eligible for the 2017 NHL draft, his character and team leadership has elevated him into a leadership role.
“He’s a good kid, he’s a great person,” Nachbaur said. “He’s businesslike whenever he walks in the door … A lot of his success comes from his attitude.”
NHL teams have noticed. He’s ranked 21st among North American Skaters in the NHL Central’s scouting rankings, a number that’s gotten lower and lower as the season has progressed.
If there are NHL teams concerned about his family situation, Jaret won’t worry. He’s going to be proud of it and let the other pieces fall into place.
“Teams have said ‘no, we don’t want to be involved,’ because he has two moms,” Fran said. “And that’s fine, you know what, (it’s) their loss.
“The Chiefs chose not to, and look where he is now.”