John Anthony’s slap shot started on the golf course.
The Owls’ defenseman started playing hockey at 5 years old, but developed his signature slap shot when he used to chip-and-putt with his dad at Penn Oaks Golf Club when he was 8 years old.
“A lot of that actually came from playing golf when I was younger,” Anthony said. “[It’s] just driving through. Some people have the tendency to shoot off their back foot rather than leaning into it [and] putting their weight into it.”
Anthony’s windup and execution on the trademark shot caught the eye of his coach, Ryan Frain.
“To be honest, myself, I never thought the slap shot was too effective,” Frain said. “It takes a lot of time to get off and allows defenders to jump into shooting lanes and have a chance to block the shot, but with John’s it’s so hard, and he does have a very quick windup and release … it would be tough for me to want to jump in front of his shot during a game or a practice for that matter.”
When Penn State forward Abraham Edson decided to take that chance in a game on Nov. 22, Anthony’s shot hit him squarely on the helmet.
“I definitely pride myself on it,” Anthony said of his shot. “Even when I was younger and much lighter than I am now, it was always one of my stronger points. It’s definitely an important aspect of the game when you are shooting from the blue line. You [have to] be able to get the puck [to the net] as quick as possible.”
In the stands to cheer Anthony on is his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Marchionne, and his son, Brayden, who attend nearly every game.
“I support him,” Marchionne said. “He’s my best friend. [His] playing hockey is something I learned to love because it’s something he does, and it’s real interesting, honestly. I never really paid attention to it before.”
Brayden was born this past spring, but Anthony said he and Marchionne have help with the responsibility from the couple’s family.
“It was definitely an adjustment,” Anthony said. “It’s probably tougher on [Marchionne], honestly. She went back to work when I started school and she also made her schedule so that she worked during the week and was down here on the weekends so I was able to see Brayden. But, it would be a lot more difficult if we didn’t have such a huge family-support system.
“She comes from a large family,” he added. “My mother lives a mile down the road from her dad’s house. Everybody’s kind of there to help us get by. Without them it would be much more difficult.”
The accommodating network further favors Anthony and Marchionne as both have a busy work schedule. Anthony lives in South Philadelphia and works as a bartender at Garage on Passyunk Avenue near 9th Street on Thursdays during the semester, and four days a week during semester breaks. Marchionne works as a server at Ron’s Original Bar & Grille in Exton.
The parental role has helped Anthony personally, too, as Marchionne said the main difference she notices in Anthony from his youth is his mannerisms.
“He definitely thinks before he speaks now,” Marchionne said. “He’s not so quick at the mouth. He’s definitely matured. I think the baby has brought a lot more responsibility into his life.”
The difference is evident when Anthony explained how Brayden motivates him to continue his pursuit of a degree in kinesiology.
“Obviously [being a father] has made it more hectic, but I would say it gives me more motivation, too, though, especially when it comes to school,” Anthony said. “You hit that slump and you might not be doing so well in the class, [but] that is always in the back of my mind as to who I am doing this for.”
“Hopefully it never comes to it,” Anthony added. “But if someday it comes to where I can have that conversation with him where he is ready to give up on something and I can tell him, ‘Look I was in the same spot and I was ready to give up and I didn’t, and it was the best decision of my life. That will be a good tool to have.”
Stephen Godwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr