NYM student plays hockey for WDC

Photo by Randy Taggart
Seventh grader Aurora Jabas was recently selected to play on an elite traveling hockey team. She is a student at New York Mills School.

By Tucker Henderson


A blue, white, and gold uniform emblazoned with a large No. 11 skates down the ice for the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines. Pretty soon, the local New York Mills player that fills that uniform will trade it for a red, white and black one as she starts with the Detroit Lakes Lakers.

Aurora Jabas is a seventh grader at NY Mills High School. She’s been playing hockey since for about 10 years and is the school’s first female hockey player. A few girls in NY Mills, including her younger sister, are following in her footsteps and have picked up the sport.

Recently, Aurora was chosen as one of the top 120 girls hockey players in the state and will be attending the CCM High Performance 14 Development Camp at St. Olaf College this summer.

As the youngest girl chosen to attend the camp, she’s certainly excited. Aurora plays as a forward and was one of only 72 chosen out of the state to recently compete in the tournament in Duluth. She was the only seventh grader on the ice that day.

“I started around four years old,” said Aurora. “My parents put me in it.”

“She was athletic and she needed something to do,” said her father, Harley Jabas. “Hockey is the one that starts the earliest. I actually started hockey kicking and screaming. I did not want her, or anyone in my family, to play hockey because I knew how much time and energy and money is involved. I was talked into it by my wife and here we sit today.”

Photo by Randy Taggart
Seventh grader Aurora Jabas skates ahead of a group of hockey players while playing for Wadena-Deer Creek this past year.

Aurora attends school in NY Mills, but since girls hockey is such a small sport in the area, she has been playing on the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines boys team. This coming season, she will be changing lanes and joining the Detroit Lakes team.

“Detroit Lakes has a girl team,”said Harley. “She’s at the age now where there’s checking. She could probably take a check or two or three or four, but that one case where you’re playing against at 250 pound guy is the issue.”

The Jabas family travels around the state and has gone to games as far as the Twin Cities, Thief River Falls and Duluth.

“I think Duluth is the farthest away,” said Harley. “That’s where this last tournament was. We definitely put the road miles on. Next year, we’ll be driving 35 minutes one way just for practice and then back home for 35 minutes. We do put on the miles.”

What once was a source of a lot of fear for Harley has become one of his greatest pastimes.

“Neither my family or my wife’s ever played hockey,” he said. “Aurora’s the first one to play and we are learning the game just as fast as she is. She has done this on her own. As far as any real direction, she’s not getting it from mom, dad, aunts, uncles, cousins or anything like that. She’s owning this. I was a swimmer in high school. My wife was a three-season athlete, but we never played hockey. I hardly ever watched it. Now I can’t get it off my mind.”

“It’s amazing. My most favorite thing to do is watch my girls play hockey.”

Harley Jabas, father of Aurora Jabas

Aurora plays hockey year-round and will be a part of four different teams during 2023. Her spring league with the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines has ended, but the Triple A team and the High Performance team are still on the docket before the fall/winter league starts again in Detroit Lakes.

“She’s starting to make a name for herself,” said Harley. “She was invited to try out for another team, which is a Tier 1 team. This would be competing with teams all over the United States.”

Although she won’t be trying out for the Tier 1 team, Aurora has her sights set on playing at the college level after high school, preferably at a D1 school. Bemidji State is on her radar since her mother graduated from there. Right now, however, she is giving it her all to keep improving.

“I just want to get out there and try to be the best,” said Aurora.

At her age, Aurora is not able to participate in some of the opportunities available in larger metropolitan areas.

“Her age level would be at 15U, but there’s not a 15U team within a decent driving distance,” said Harley. “Next year, she’s going to play for Detroit Lakes High School as an eighth grader. They are combining with Park Rapids, Frazee, Perham, NY Mills and Wadena—several teams—just to get enough players for Junior Varsity and Varsity. Right now, she’s the only high school player in NY Mills.”

“There’s other ones too, they started this year,” said Aurora about the elementary girls hockey players. “It’s getting way bigger now.”

The opportunities that come with playing hockey have been a unique experience for the Jabas family. Aurora especially enjoys the people who share the ice with her on a weekly basis.

“The friends you meet,” she said. “And traveling!”

Between periods of Minnesota Wild and Fargo Force games, Aurora has had the privilege of skating on the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis and the Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D.

“It’s a family thing too,” said Harley. “Now that we’re gone so many weekends, it’s very rare when we don’t have a weekend where grandparents come and watch, or aunts and uncles. The ones that can’t watch are streaming from Facebook or different websites.”

“This coming weekend, we have no hockey commitments,” he said. “We hardly know what do with ourselves.”

Harley is a mathematics instructor at the NY Mills High School, so he knows the importance of keeping grades up. His daughter also knows that it’s imperative to stay on top of her schoolwork.

“When she started playing hockey, practices were early evenings like 5-5:30 p.m. start times,” said Harley. “As she gets older, ice times are getting harder for her to get. This season she’s having ice time at 8-9 p.m. at night and trying to do her homework and staying on top of that.”

“She’s got pretty good at it,” he said. “There were some nights we were doing homework before and after practice.

“All A’s,” confirmed Aurora.

Hockey isn’t the only sport she plays either. Aurora also plays tennis for the Perham team. Playing as a member of the NY Mills softball team also takes up a good chunk of her time during the warmer months.

Now that summer’s on the horizon, the CCM High Performance Camp is coming up fast. During the days of July 18-22, Aurora will be learning from the top coaches in the state and will be practicing with the top girls hockey players in her age bracket.

There’s been mention that the camp is often a stepping stone to the Junior Olympics, but the Jabas family doesn’t want to get too far ahead of themselves. For now, simply enjoying the ice is an important step on the road to success for Aurora.