Article by Samantha Roering. Photos by Samantha Roering.
On Sunday mornings while growing up, Jojo Chobak was found at the rink scrimmaging against her brothers. Their mom would drop them off for two hours to tire them out.
For Jojo, this was the beginning of her hockey journey that has taken her all over the country, from the U.S Collegiate camp at Lake Placid to playing Division 1 hockey in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
It all started in Chicago, Illinois, playing hockey with her brothers. They were influential, not only in her love for the sport but also in her signature nickname, Jojo.
“They couldn’t pronounce Violet, so they called me yo-yo, and then it turned into Jojo. I had always played hockey with them, so everyone around them would call me Jojo too,” Chobak explained.
She had played on boys’ hockey teams with her brothers until she was 15, but she wasn’t always a goaltender.
Her first start in the net came unplanned. A teammate who couldn’t make it in time prompted Chobak’s debut. She can still remember the one goal she allowed in that first period, a puck that went off her shoulder into the net.
From there, Chobak split her time playing as a forward and goaltender, continuing to play alongside her brothers in Chicago. Most wouldn’t think of Chicago as a big hockey city, but for Chobak, there were plenty of skating rinks and club teams to take advantage of.
“I think that hockey is bigger than people realize in Chicago,” Chobak said when describing her hockey upbringing.
She pays tribute to the city where it all started on her goalie mask. The back of it features the Chicago skyline combined with the pointed star from the Chicago flag. It also sports the words “No Limit” in reference to the song by G-Herbo, her favorite rapper.
Chicago is also where Chobak joined her first girls’ team, at age 15. She joined the Chicago Young Americans, an AAA team. The league wasn’t big, but the culture on the team was great, and it allowed her to travel around the Midwest to play hockey.
After spending a couple of seasons with the team, it was time for Chobak to decide where to play collegiate hockey. She ended up at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Though she only played in two games during her first season, she made the most of every opportunity.
“I was working on getting comfortable playing college hockey, getting adjusted to the speed, and trying to maintain my confidence as best as I could,” Chobak said.
It paid off the following year when she took over as a starter when Emma Soderberg left for the Olympics. In 20 games, Chobak had a goals-allowed average of 1.76.
She kept her team in crucial games that would help them make a run to the national tournament. Chobak didn’t start any tournament games, but she still found the experience valuable.
One of Chobak’s biggest takeaways was that postseason hockey is still ordinary hockey. While it felt like a big deal to be at the tournament, she also realized that the atmosphere wasn’t different from other hockey games.
“It’s the national tournament, but it is just another hockey game. It’s not like you’re playing two games a week against the same team. It’s anybody’s game,” Chobak said.
Knowing her opportunities would be limited if she stayed, Chobak decided to transfer after her sophomore season and wanted to stay in the WCHA. After conversations with former childhood teammate Courtney Hall, she decided to come to St. Cloud.
Another factor that drew her to the program was the team beginning to rebuild. Idalski started his first season as head coach during Chobak’s first year with the team.
“Knowing that a new coach was coming in was exciting because that tends to be a turning point for a lot of teams. It was really nice to be a part of a new culture,” Chobak said.
Her first season with the Huskies was described as an adjustment year. She was building trust with the team and learning how to adapt to their style of play.
This year, she’s become more comfortable, which has allowed her to focus more on the technical aspects of the game and also on the mentality she brings to the ice.
The environment on the team has helped shape her mindset. She explains that everyone wants the team to win, whether they’re in the lineup or out of it. There’s a lot of respect in the locker room, and it drives the team’s success.
Chobak has also found success with an off-ice endeavor alongside teammate Avery Myers. The two of them have been co-hosting a podcast, Dump & Change, where they’ve been able to further connect with their own teammates but also athletes from different sports.
They’ve had the likes of Huskies volleyball star Kenzie Foley and baseball player Mitch Gumbko. For Chobak, the ability to make those connections throughout the podcast is one of the most rewarding parts.
“We didn’t know these people beforehand. Now we have an in to different teams, seeing what the dynamic is like. Having those connections being built is super awesome,” Chobak explained.
Chobak stays busy with her academics too. She’s pursuing a nursing degree and has been learning how to balance her schedule.
She starts her mornings with her classes and then heads to practice in the afternoon. Her weekends are typically dedicated to hockey, making much of her week focused on school.
She finds that while being a student-athlete can be challenging, it also allows her to take breaks. When school feels like a lot, she can turn her attention to hockey and vice versa.
Though her roommates may joke that they never see her around, Chobak still takes time to maintain a healthy social life. Taking in-person classes has helped her establish relationships with new people.
She does find time for her friends, too. Even if it’s as simple as watching The Bachelor together while she studies, she makes sure to make time for the people she cares about. Looking ahead, Chobak plans to continue furthering her education and establishing an identity outside of hockey.
However, the emergence of the PWHL is something that has caught her attention. It’s something she would consider if the opportunity presented itself. She thinks the league is amazing for women in hockey and that it gives young girls a league to look up to and dream about.
It’s especially meaningful for Chobak to see former teammates like Soderberg have an impact in the league.
“Just seeing people that I’ve played hockey with, go into and play at that next level, to be that role model for that next generation is just so cool,” Chobak said.
Though it’s unclear where exactly her future will take her, it’s obvious that Chobak has the determination to achieve anything she puts her mind to.
From being half of one of the best goaltending tandems in college hockey to working towards a nursing degree or co-hosting a podcast, there truly is no limit for Jojo Chobak.