Jan. 29, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. – By Tim Connor
After three-and-a half seasons at Notre Dame, the word is out on senior left wing John Wroblewski – never take your eye off the hard-working forward – because you never know what can happen.
The quiet and unassuming Wroblewski also has a devilish and mischievous side that keeps his teammates on their toes.
Whether it’s defending the opposition’s top scorer, scoring a big goal or delivering a shot of shaving cream to team captain Evan Nielsen’s face during a TV interview, something interesting usually seems to happen when the always smiling Wroblewski is around.
“You have to remember that we are playing a game. You have to have fun. Getting Evan (Nielsen) with the shaving cream is just the kind of thing that I’ve always done. It’s just good fun,” explains Wroblewski with a devilish grin.
And obviously, his teammates enjoy the left wing’s antics since they selected him one of the team’s alternate captains this season.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized by your teammates. A letter on your jersey doesn’t get you respect. You have to earn that, but it’s still nice to get the recognition,” says Wroblewski.
One group of people who now recognize the talented forward is the opposition.
Once recognized as a pesky defensive forward, the senior left wing has seen his offensive skills become a force to be reckoned with over the past two seasons.
The 21-year old forward comes into this weekend’s series with Ohio State ranked second on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points. He’s also the team leader with five power-play goals. That’s a far cry from his rookie season when he recorded just four assists in 30 games for the Irish.
In his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Wroblewski saw duty on the Irish checking unit. It was a role he did without fanfare, but a job he did well.
“Everyone wants to be a scorer, but you have to earn that opportunity,” says Wroblewski.
“You can never forget that the team comes first and I was willing to do whatever I could to help the team. Being a defensive forward those first two years got me into the lineup and was what the team needed me to do at the time.”
As a junior, Wroblewski came out of his defensive shell scoring 10 goals with 11 assists for 21 points to finish seventh in team scoring.
He’s continued as a scoring threat in 2002-03, already notching career-highs in assists, points and power-play goals with 10 regular season games left. He has scored three points in a game five times this season to lead the Irish in that department.
Not surprisingly, Wroblewski’s increase in offense seemed to coincide with his moving from right to left wing midway through his junior year.
“I played left wing when I was in Ann Arbor (U.S. Under-18 team) and I really like shooting from the off wing. It’s a much easier to go to the net from the left side,” said Wroblewski.
Wroblewski got his start in hockey like many other kids do. He just followed his older brother.
“My brother (Tommy) was six and I was four. My mother told my dad that he needed to find something for my brother to do besides watching TV. My brother said he wanted to play hockey and I just followed him. I’ve been playing ever since,” says Wroblewski.
A native of Neenah, Wis., Wroblewski grew up in Green Bay Packer country and was a product of the local youth hockey ranks before going to Green Bay to play midget AAA hockey.
It was during this process that the speedy Wroblewski realized he had the talents to go far in the college game.
“I guess it hit me when I played in Green Bay that I could be successful playing hockey. I had advanced to the Select 15 team and that’s when I got a chance to play for the U.S. Developmental program,” says the modest forward.
Wroblewski was part of the first group of players to play with the U.S. Developmental Program based in Ann Arbor, Mich. His teammates included Irish players Connor Dunlop and Brett Henning.
With the national team, Wroblewski’s game flourished. He was named to the all-tournament team at the Under-17 international tournament in Swift Current, Sask., where he led all scorers. He was a team MVP in the Under-18 World Championship in Fussen, Germany the following year.
“It was impossible not to develop as a player with the Developmental Program,” explains Wroblewski.
“Being around all that talent makes you a better player. You are competing against the best players in the country. Three of my teammates (Andy Hilbert, Ron Hainsey and Rick DiPietro) are playing in the NHL today.”
While Wroblewski has his share of fun playing hockey, he does have a serious side. Away from hockey, he has always been involved in Notre Dame’s community service program, as have most of his teammates.
The son of Tom and Mary Ellyn Wroblewski is one of 15 collegiate hockey players to be nominated for college hockey’s Humanitarian Award which goes to college hockey’s “best citizen”. The award is presented along with the Hobey Baker Award at the Frozen Four in April.
“It’s nice to be recognized for this award, but just like on the ice, we do things as a team off the ice. The community service projects we’ve been involved with, the team has done as a whole. I’m just the person that has been thrust into the spotlight and I’m honored,” says Wroblewski.
Wroblewski’s next project is to get his Irish hockey team turned around. Winless in their last seven games (0-5-2), the hard-skating winger knows how important this weekend’s Ohio State series is.
“We really have to get it done this weekend. It’s going to take hard work and executing our system the way we can to get back on track. We can’t let simple mistakes hurt us the way we have the last three weeks,” says Wroblewski.
“We know we can play against the top teams. We just have to get back to the way we played earlier in the year. That will come from just working harder.”