Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut regularly ranks among the top three academic universities in the U.S., and often among the best in the world.
It has also become a force in collegiate hockey, qualifying for six of the last 10 NCAA tournaments and winning the 2013 championship.
So, in order to play for the Yale Bulldogs men’s ice hockey team, a player needs to be a high achiever both in the classroom and on the ice — standards that Mill Bay brothers Jojo and Seiya Tanaka-Campbell, who attend Shawnigan Lake School, have both met.
Jojo is set to graduate this spring, and Seiya is still two years away from finishing his high school career, but neither one has to worry about where they’re going to university, or the next major steps in their hockey careers.
The journey started when Jojo was in Grade 10 and at a tournament in Toronto with the Shawnigan team. He caught the eye of the Yale scouts. Seiya was spotted by the Yale brass at a BC Hockey camp later the same year. This past fall, a Yale coach came out to watch Shawnigan’s midget prep team play and spoke to the brothers afterward. The coach looked at the boys’ grades, and talked to their teachers, including hockey coach and science teacher Paul Morris.
“Mr. Morris is a good guy,” Jojo recalls with a grin. “He vouched for us.”
Jojo and Seiya visited the Yale campus in November.
“That’s kind of when it kicked off, after seeing the campus,” Jojo says. “It was ridiculous.”
The boys decided in December to commit to Yale, but opted not to make it public until earlier this month, once the Shawnigan hockey season was wrapped up.
Fellow Ivy League schools Princeton and Cornell — the latter produced Hockey Hall of Fame members Ken Dryden and Joe Nieuwendyk — also expressed interest in the brothers, but the final decision was an easy one.
“Yale was the way to go,” Jojo states.
It was important for the brothers to commit to the same school, even if it is all the way across the continent.
“Obviously, it’s easier for our mom [Keiko Tanaka],” Jojo notes. “She only has to go to one place.”
Jojo plans to play at least one year, maybe two, of junior A hockey before he heads to college. He has played 15 games as an AP with the junior A Cowichan Valley Capitals over the last three seasons, scoring his first BCHL goal in November.
Seiya plans to finish his high school career at Shawnigan as well, then perhaps test the junior A waters before going to Yale.
“I’ll probably stay here until Grade 12 and graduate here,” he says. “And when the time comes, we’ll see.”
Shawnigan has become an important place for the brothers over the last five years. In addition to serving as captain of the hockey team the last two years, Jojo is also Head of School, School Prefect and Head of Ripley’s House. Seiya hopes to fill some of the same roles when his time comes.
“We’ve both been here since Grade 8,” Jojo observes. “That’s something pretty special.”
It wasn’t always something special, however. Jojo wasn’t keen on attending boarding school.
“Before coming here, I was completely against it,” Jojo recalls. “Ironically, it was probably the best thing in my life.”
Two years younger than Jojo, Seiya got to see what Shawnigan was all about before he started attending thanks to his big brother. Consequently, Seiya was more than ready when his time came.
“The summer after Grade 7, I was super excited to go to boarding school,” he says. “I couldn’t wait.”
Both players credit the school for helping them grow on and off the ice.
“Shawnigan offered [hockey and academics] at a super high level,” Jojo says. “Hockey-wise, I’ve developed a lot. It’s been a journey, for sure. And academically, it’s been amazing.”
Following in the footsteps of their dad, Patrick Campbell, who may or may not have played professionally in France (the boys aren’t sure), Jojo started skating at the age of three and Seiya at 18 months. They both started playing hockey at four, and also took figure skating lessons in the early years.
“I’d say it helped me a lot,” Jojo says of figure skating. “In ways I didn’t expect.”
Their careers took them through the Kerry Park, Juan de Fuca, and Cowichan Valley minor hockey associations before they played at Shawnigan.
Patrick Campbell died in 2013, the same year that Jojo started at Shawnigan, and the boys have little doubt that he would be proud of where they are now.
“He was a big believer in academics as well as a competitive athlete and hockey player,” Jojo says. “He wanted to find a way in which we had both hockey and high-level academics.”
The Tanaka-Campbell brothers both inherited their father’s competitiveness.
“I never met someone more competitive than him,” Jojo says. “No matter what I do, I have to do my best. I hate to lose.”
Academically, both brothers expect they will go into sciences at Yale. Jojo is considering either chemical engineering or astrophysics right now, while Seiya hasn’t narrowed his focus yet.
The season that just ended marked the first time the brothers have played on the same team at a competitive level since the novice ranks, when Jojo was eight and Seiya was six.
Playing 36 games this year, Jojo led the entire CSSHL midget prep division with 55 assists, adding 15 goals for 70 points, which was seventh in the league. Seiya skated in 29 games, scoring 25 points on 12 goals and 13 assists. The midget prep team went 30-5-1 in the regular season, finishing second to Burnaby Winter Club by a single point.
“It would have been nice to play on the same line, for sure,” Jojo acknowledges. “But just being on the same team was cool.”
They did get time together on the penalty kill unit, where they enjoy trying to score shorthanded, something each of them did once this season.
They also both like to cause trouble for the opposing team.
“We always create havoc,” Jojo laughs. “We love the havoc.”