Jonah Chambers played volleyball and loved it, but he didn’t have to create
a pre-game routine for himself. He was a decent rugby player, but he didn’t
have to start his pre-game prep as early as he does at the rink.
Chambers is one of two outstanding netminders with the Calgary Buffaloes,
who are representing the Pacific Region at the 2019 TELUS Cup.
Playing alongside talented Garin Bjorklund, the 17-year-old Chambers had a
1.80 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 15 regular-season
games. He also played three games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s
His coach, Brent Harrison is an on-ice performance coach at Skillz, Skating
and Shooting Center in Calgary. He calls Chambers, “a great teammate, who
has made the Buffaloes a very successful team this season.”
“He’s a really good kid,” said Harrison. “Most importantly he’s been a good
teammate. We have two very good goalies and we decided, at playoff time
that we’d go with our hot goalie, Garin. Jonah didn’t play a game in the
playoffs and I think that was tough for him because when Garin left to play
in the [World Under-17 Hockey Challenge], Jonah stepped in and carried us
while Garin was gone.
“So, we rode the other guy throughout the playoffs, but Jonah was an
outstanding teammate. He led the cheers for Garin and supported him every
way he could. Jonah never complained and he handled the situation really
well. You can’t have a successful team without people like Jonah on your
For Jonah, who grew up in Winnipeg, started playing goal at age nine
because “I wasn’t a very good player,” and arrived in Calgary as a
13-year-old who knew virtually no one in his new hometown, being a part of
this tremendous Buffaloes team has made it easy to be a supportive No. 2
“I’ve found it’s really hard for a goaltender to be mentally tough all the
time,” Chambers explained. “I like to go into every game thinking that I’m
going to start. I always do my pre-game prep as if I’m going to play. Even
as a back-up you have to be mentally prepared to play at all times.
“I also make it a point, as best I can, to keep it loose in the room. And
in warm-up, when I get into the net and Garin is just skating around, I try
my best to always challenge our shooters. I do my best to stop them in
order to get their compete-level up. Goaltending is so much harder mentally
than anything I’ve experienced in all the other sports I’ve played so I
created my own pre-game routine that I have used for the past two or three
“It’s hard to be a backup. Everyone wants to play and I’m no different, but
we have such a good team, Garin is such a strong goaltender and we have
such a great room, that it’s easier for me to accept the fact that I might
not play as much as I’d like.”
If Chambers sounds like a rather exceptional, caring 17-year-old, he is.
And to him, the mental game is just as important away from the rink as it
is on the ice.
“When I was at St. Matthews School in Grade 9, a counselor selected me and
two classmates to attend a mental health conference,” he said. “I think he
chose me because I was a hockey player and (former NHLer) Sheldon Kennedy
would be there.
“A lot of the speakers there were excellent, but the speaker who really
grabbed me was Sheldon Kennedy. The part that really took hold of me was
when he was going through all that trouble at a high level of junior hockey
and yet he couldn’t or didn’t speak up about it. Not being able to speak up
is something that just got to me.
“So, we went back to school and in order to create more awareness for
mental health issues, we organized a lip-sync battle in the gym. Kids who
can’t say anything, can speak through someone else. We had 700 kids lip
syncing and dancing and it turned into a mini-talent show. My friend played
the piano and everyone got involved for more than 90 minutes. It’s
something I’ll never forget.
“In recent years, I’ve been paired with kids who have mental health issues
and I try to help them with school or sports or just everyday life. I just
try to offer some assistance.”
This year, Chambers will graduate from Bishop Grandin High School in
Calgary but will continue next year by upgrading his marks in “a couple of
courses.” He has signed a letter of intent to play for the Camrose Kodiaks
of the AJHL and hopes, one day, to earn himself an NCAA Division 1
In the meantime, he’s preparing to play in Canada’s National Midget
Championship this week. He’s definitely mentally ready, and he’s convinced
that his team is all set, as well.
“There is, 100 per cent, not a doubt in my mind that we can win this,” he
said. “With the talent on this team, I think there is a pretty good shot.”