Four times a week, George-Jenkins Eagles forward Luke Rouleau, finds himself commuting from Lakeland, Florida and to either Ellenton or Brandon to participate in competitive ice hockey. And, that’s just at the minimum in which this week’s Lightning High School Hockey League’s Senior Spotlight skater has to travel to take to the ice with either the Eagles, or his travel ice hockey team in the Gulf Coast Flames.
In addition to that, Rouleau has to also head south from Lakeland in order to attend International Baccalaureate at Bartow High School in Polk County. The International Baccalaureate program (IB), “offers four highly respected programs of international education,” which aims to develop intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work” in society.
So, yes, students are required to take an acceptance exam to attend IB. And, it’s at IB where the Eagles’ leading goal-scorer this season (10G-5A—15pts) studies at arguably the most challenging academically High School programs in the entire country.
Even one of Rouleau’s English and Theory of Knowledge teachers, Chris Guice, from IB has been impressed with his student’s consistent commitment towards playing ice hockey and his academics.
Rouleau before a travel game at the University of Notre Dame
“I am impressed by Luke’s ability to balance all of his interests. Our IB program is exceptionally rigorous and requires an intense amount of effort,” said Guice.
Guice, also proceeded to acknowledge just how extraordinary it is that Rouleau not only stays on task, but exceeds expectations.
“He keeps his work done according to his schedule and sometimes even completes his tasks earlier than they are due, so he can keep up with everything that he has to do,” added the English and Theory teacher.
“These seniors have a 4,000 word extended essay that they begin in their junior year and continue independently over the summer. Then, they have a rough draft due in early September. Luke had his outline and rough draft done in early to mid-August. He’s intelligent, but he’s also intellectual. He likes learning on almost a philosophical level. He’s sort of a modern-day Renaissance man.”
The 17-year-old is taking two Advanced Placement (AP) classes and four IB courses. In addition, to the senior’s rigorous academic and busy hockey schedule, Rouleau also plays the tuba in the school’s band.
“In sixth grade I started playing the tuba, but had always been into music since I was younger,” said Rouleau.
The LHSHL skater has also made both the All-State and All-County Bands, while excelling at his musical talents. In fact, Rouleau will be traveling with his school’s band in December to play and compete where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs at.
However, Rouleau’s passion for music and to perform doesn’t stop at just playing the tuba.
“I just love music, and also love playing the piano,” said the Jenkins forward. “I can just listen to a song and then sit down at the piano and play it back.”
Yet, the Music Man is also interested in horseback riding too. Rouleau typically spends summer vacations up at Red Deer, Alberta and on his Grandparent’s ranch; where he’ll cater to and ride horses, as his parents are both from that region of Canada.
Luke Before A School Concert
While Rouleau was born and raised in Florida, it was in Canada when he first got into hockey, as a majority of his family resides there.
“I used to just always be around ‘everything hockey’ when I was younger and whenever we would go up there and visit, and I would just see it on TV when my parents were watching too,” added Rouleau.
From that point on, Rouleau pursued his hockey interest in the Tampa Bay area and has excelled to play under-18 Midget Major “AA” and for Flames Head Coach, Fred Eaton.
And, to no surprise, the Flames’ coach hinted at both Rouleau’s determination and persistency to not only grow as a player, but to do what’s best for the team too.
“He never takes a shift off, and at both practice and in games,” said Eaton. “He’s very attentive and listens to (his) coaches for any assistance that we can help him with.”
Eaton couldn’t help but explain Rouleau’s leadership role with the Flames and other teams, as well.
“He's been a true leader from the moment we met. I hear this from all of his coaches that were lucky enough to coach him. To be a ‘good’ leader, your players must respect you and you must earn this in anything you do in life, and Luke has achieved this at an early age. His actions and the way he conducts himself speak volume,” added Eaton.
Similar to Guice, the Flames Head Coach was “impressed” with how Rouleau is able to dedicated time to all of his academic activities and involvement in hockey. Yet, Eaton wasn’t “surprised” that the youngster is able to achieve what a majority of High School students cannot.
Though, let’s not forget how dedicated Rouleau is to his fellow Eagles of the LHSHL. Rouleau has been playing for George-Jenkins for the past three seasons, and was even involved with the team as an eighth grader during the league’s Spring League season.
While the Eagles had their struggles during Rouleau’s early days of the LHSHL, he’s embraced every minute of the ride and the adversity the Green and Gold have had to face over the past three seasons.
“George-Jenkins in particular is a really good ‘teaching device,’ because we have such a wide variety of skills level,” said Rouleau.
The leader was also considerate of his fellow Eagles.
“We haven’t had as many travel players on our team in comparison to other teams around the league, so I’ve always reminded myself to always stay positive. And, while I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play travel hockey, not all of my teammates have had that same opportunity,” said Rouleau.
“That’s the key to winning and enjoying playing the game, though; is knowing that you’re out there and can offer help and that not every play is going to be perfect, or even your own play isn’t always going to be perfect, too.”
Rouleau also chimed in how Jenkins has been able to turn heads around the league and notably improve over the past two-to-three seasons.
“Jenkins in particular has improved, because granted we’ve had that room to improve, but we’ve stayed working at those things; and some of our other more skilled players realize that we need to take the time and have the patience to work with some other players that haven’t had the same travel hockey opportunities as us.”
George-Jenkins Assistant Head Coach, Joe Niemas, confirmed how supportive Rouleau is, especially when the Eagles take to the ice to practice.
Rouleau wearing a die-hard Eagles' fan's jersey
“If there’s a drill going on in practice and the coach drops the puck, and has Luke come out there to display it, he’ll go after that drill like it’s Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals,” said Niemas. “And, the kids feed off of that knowing that type of intensity is how he practices.”
Niemas also made it clear that he’ll almost always use Rouleau as an example in how the senior prioritizes all “the other things” in addition to playing on two hockey teams.
“Luke Rouleau plays hockey four-to-five days a week; does band three-to-four days a week; and is still a straight “A” student. It’s a matter of priorities, and he probably has the best priorities out of any kid I’ve ever seen of his age,” added Niemas.
Let’s also not forget that Rouleau’s younger brother, James Rouleau, is now a skater with George-Jenkins and Niemas has seen a little “more intensity” from the older brother.
“This year, with his younger brother (James) out there, you can see that there’s a little more incentive and that he’s really looking forward to playing the game with his younger brother,” said Niemas.
“Now, he shows up at every practice and game with his younger brother, and there is a little more incentive that ‘this could be the last time’ these two kids get to share the ice together, and perform at a high level to have a successful season.
George-Jenkins currently sits in second place for the LHSHL’s Modin Division of the Eastern Conference, and is on pace to make the LHSHL Playoffs. Yet, when the season ends and when Rouleau graduates from IB, he’ll plan on going to a four-year undergraduate college institution.
“I really like math and physics in school, so I’ll look to go to college for engineering, and then look to eventually apply to the top schools (for engineering) for a graduate program,” said Rouleau.
Whether or not Rouleau continues to play hockey, plays in a band or excels at his major in college – his future peers will soon learn one thing…
On or off of the ice, Luke Rouleau never misses a beat, or takes a shift off.
(The Lightning High School Hockey League can be followed on Twitter @TBLHSHL)