When Jaxon Camp was playing minor hockey in Guelph, he would often join the Guelph Gryphons varsity men’s hockey team coached by his father Shawn Camp for some away games.
Now a defenceman, Jaxon is in his second season of playing for the Gryphons.
“I came on road trips when I was 10 or 11,” Jaxon said. “I was a stick boy for a couple of games and then going through the recruitment process in junior A, I wasn't sure where I was going to go. I was looking to go (NCAA) Division 1 and I came here a couple of times. I watched the Frosty Mug Game itself.”
Shawn is in his 17th season with the Gryphons, making him the longest-serving head coach ever with the team. None of the previous coaches had their son playing.
“He's handled it really, really well because it's different when you're a coach's kid,” Shawn said. “No matter what people say, it's a little bit different. Any coach's kid, his or her experience may not be the same, but the team has handled it so well. He deals mostly with the other two coaches and he's been a no-maintenance player so it's been seamless.”
The other two coaches are associate head coach Justin Stevens and assistant coach Chris Clancy.
“They are all assigned different roles,” Jaxon said. “I deal more with Chris Clancy as he's the defensive coach and Justin Stevens is the penalty-kill coach. Either if I do something really good or really bad, then I'll hear from the big man.”
However, there’s no hockey talk at the Camp residence.
“He coached me a little bit growing up, but it's honestly a lot different with his name attached to the program and the pedigree that comes with that,” Jaxon said. “We had an agreement that I would move out, so that's the first step. There's no at-home connection, it's at the rink only.”
And there’s a no hockey talk at home, at family gatherings for Christmas or any of the other holidays.
“My mother's actually the enforcer on that one so that anytime that we're around the table and he brings up the power play or penalty kill or whatever, my mom's quick to nip that in the bud,” Jaxon said. “She's kind of like the police officer in our house in terms of the hockey rules. It's great. Every family member plays a role. It's honestly pretty special and it's something that I'll look back on in a few years and just cherish it.”
Jaxon’s been out of the house since he was 16.
After a season with the junior B Guelph Hurricanes of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (now the Cambridge RedHawks), Jaxon played a season of tier 2 with the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League before two seasons in the Central Canada Hockey League with first the Hawkesbury Hawks and Carleton Place Canadians before joining the Gryphons.
He was also selected by the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League draft of 2015, but decided to stay in tier 2 junior hockey in order to preserve his NCAA eligibility.
This isn’t the first time Shawn has coached Jaxon, although it’s the first time with Shawn serving as the head coach of the team.
“One year in bantam or midget, I helped out when I could make it,” Shawn said. “While I was here coaching the Gryphs, I helped out with the midget team that he played for sparingly so we did have some experience at that before. He's really good at separating hockey and life so it's been a real pleasure.”
Jaxon isn’t the first Camp kid to be coached by their father. Shawn helped out both the John F. Ross CVI girls’ hockey team that his daughter Keegan played on as well as her teams in the Guelph Girls’ Hockey Association.
“It was the same thing for her and it was a lot of fun,” Shawn said. “You hope that every parent gets the chance. You see your kids in a different way as young athletes and teammates and students of the sport. It's been really fun.”
Jaxon’s had talks with Keegan about being coached by their father.
“She just said he's a die-hard and there's no off switch with him,” Jaxon said. “It's something that we've gotten to learn living with him for 20-plus years. She had the experience of going through him as a coach first and passed that on to me. She gave me all the intel on him and it's honestly helped my process here a lot.”
As head coach Shawn has contact with all his team’s players in an attempt to make them better players, which will also improve the team.
“I always thought I was my harshest critic until I came here so that's something that I've had to deal with. It's made my game better,” Jaxon said. “Him and the rest of the staff, Justin Stevens, Chris Clancy, it's been the best thing for my game. The development here is second-to-none and I'm excited to finish out my couple of years here and see where that takes me.”
And what does Jaxon hear from his father about his game?
“Any time it's the foot speed or something like that he's right on me because that's something that he said I'd have to improve to play at this level so that's been a real point of focus for us,” Jaxon said. “It's something that I think I've turned from a weakness into one of the stronger points of my game.”
Both Shawn and Jaxon consider themselves fortunate to have the experience of being father and son on the same team.
“It's been such a pleasure because it's kind of every dad's dream to be able to coach your kids, but to do it at this level is a bit of an exception,” Shawn said.
“Watching the Gryphs when I grew up, it's beyond words to be able to be here,” Jaxon said.