He hunts. He fishes. He hits people. Hard.
If there was ever a player in the Midwest Jr. Hockey League who defied stereotypes, it’s an MC Monarchs new addition, Justin Session, who recently arrived via Saskatchewan.
A native Detroiter who said he feels more comfortable on a fishing boat than an athletic field, the 2014 Cass Tech graduate also knows his role on the ice.
“I’m the support guy. I do the dirty work. I dig pucks out of corners so the playmakers can do what they do,” said Session, a 1996 birth-year forward.
Did we mention he hits people hard?
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said MC Monarchs owner-general manager Mark Gilman. “A kid his size is not supposed to bring that type of velocity and force into a body check.”
The element of surprise is the best way to describe Session’s hitting prowess on the ice.
At 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, the biggest shock for opponents is when they look around for the truck that just hit them and realize it was a smart car.
“Their eyes get really big when they realize it’s me that just hit them,” said Session.
His physical play was not originally a choice but came out of necessity. Being the fastest kid on every team he played on, Session found himself moved up to the bantam level when he should have been a squirt. As the smallest kid on the ice, his physical play became a necessity instead of a style choice.
After stints with the Belle Tire Selects and eventually the Michigan Hockey Academy through high school, Session was plucked from the group with five other players by Humboldt Broncos coach Dean Brockman, who was recruiting Detroit area kids to play in the Saskatchewan Jr. Hockey League.
“I was the only one of the six who went. I like being out in that kind of country and I did a lot of hunting and fishing,” Session said of his stint in Saskatchewan.
The outdoorsman part of Session was cultivated in the many trips to his grandmother’s house in Alabama, where he said he also learned to walk.
Then there’s the obvious stereotype.
Black kids growing up in Detroit usually don’t choose hockey as their sport. His new coach knows a little about that.
Monarchs head coach Jason McCrimmon is one of only two African Americans growing up in the city that ever went on to professional hockey — and he’s followed Session’s career since he first slapped on a pair of skates.
“I’ve known Justin and his family since he was a baby. He had just started playing hockey when I was in college and I kept tabs on him. He’s a special talent and has a great family,” said McCrimmon.
They haven’t seen a lot of black hockey players in Saskatchewan either.
“We’d travel to some towns where I got a lot of long looks,” said Session. “We were in a Boston Pizza one day and some guy just walked up and stared at me so long, my teammates had to ask him to leave.”
While the hunting and fishing went well in Saskatchewan, the hockey part threw him a curve.
After his arrival, Coach Brockman took a job in the Western States Hockey League and Session found himself trying out for the team he had already been recruited to play on. He made the team a second time but an early-season concussion set him back and he was traded earlier this month to the Minnesota Iron Rangers of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League.
Though based in the United States, Session noted that the team was playing in a Canadian league and he had no interest in traveling back and forth across the border every game, so he made a call to McCrimmon.
“That kid has worked hard his whole life and never took a day off. I didn’t hesitate in telling his parents that this would be a good place for him. He’s the kind of kid we want on the Monarchs. We’re really happy to have him,” McCrimmon said of Session.
His arrival last weekend during a road trip paid immediate dividends for the Monarchs. Session hit everything that moved and scored his first two Monarchs goals to lead the team to a win against the Decatur Blaze on Sunday.
“The energy on the ice changes every time he goes out,” said Gilman. “And off the ice this weekend in Decatur he was hilarious. It’s like taking Kevin Hart on a road trip.”
Session and the Monarchs go back on the road this Saturday afternoon to take on the Detroit Fighting Irish at the Ice Box Sports Centre in Brownstown.
The Irish may want to watch out for speeding smart cars.
PHOTO: Justin Session, while playing for the Detroit Belle Tire Selects.