Full Circle with Jonathan Juliano

By: Megan Youngblood

Years ago, when Rockers forward Jonathan Juliano started playing hockey he started playing at Big Boy Arena. Now years later, Julinao is coming full circle, ending his career playing at the same rink he learned to skate in. 

Juliano’s career was already supposed to be over, but a few unplanned events brought him back to the game. 

“I played for Port Huron since 2018 and played with them until COVID and then I had the next year and a half off,” Juliano said. “I built my house and then Nick Fields called me and asked me if I was interested in playing. I hadn’t really thought about coming back and playing, but I didn’t really like how things ended in Port Huron with COVID."

Being that Juliano is from Fraser and grew up about a mile away from Big Boy Arena, it wasn’t too hard to give hockey another shot. 

“I figured I’d give it a shot,” Juliano said. “I liked everything about this place, and I grew up playing here, so why not?” 

After one season with the Rockers during the 2022-23 season, Juliano planned on hanging up the skates, but when his season was cut short due to medical reasons, he put the skates back on. 

“Last year I had to end my season earlier because of medical reasons,” Juliano said. “So last year would have been my last year, but that happened. So I said 'This is going to be my last year' and everything’s been going really good this year.” 

So far this season, Juliano has 15 goals and 16 assists, giving him 31 points thus far. On top of his accolades this season, Juliano is one of three assistant captains alongside Jamie Milam, Scott Coash, and captain Danny Vanderwiel.

“Vandy (Danny Vanderwiel) went down in December, and Coash went down to the SP, so we were down to one assistant captain,” Juliano said. “And after that, it just progressed into a permanent thing.” 

Being a leader is not new for Juliano who served as an assistant in Danville and Captain in St. Clair Shores. He likes to think being a leader comes with the territory of being a dad. One aspect of being a dad that makes Juliano a good leader is his calmness. 

“I’m more of a calmer guy,” Juliano said. “So for guys to come up and approach me or me to talk to them, it isn’t hard because I’m a dad.” 

While Juliano loves playing hockey, being a dad, especially a hockey dad is what he loves most. 

“My son has been watching me play since he was one,” Juliano said. “But every time I brought him on the ice when he was four or five, he kind of just followed me around. He wasn’t showing a lot of interest, so he didn’t start playing until he and my daughter started at the same time. She was six and he was eight. To begin, they gave me some grief and said they didn’t want to play, but now they love it.” 

Hockey is a constant theme in the Juliano household, with games and practices almost every day. 

“During the season we have hockey on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and if we have a game on Sunday, then Sunday,” Juliano said. “So, Tuesdays are pretty much our day off.”

While Tuesdays there is no official hockey going on for the Juliano’s, that doesn’t mean hockey isn’t being talked about inside the house. Especially with fellow teammate Danny Vanderwiel living in the house as well.

“With Vandy living with me, we pretty much talk hockey every day,” Juliano said. “We have a shooting room in our basement, so my kids go down there with him and screw around."

With Vandy and a shooting room in the basement, Juliano, Vandy, and his kids have seen a difference in their playing. 

“Up until two months ago when Vandy was starting to get back from being injured, he started shooting with the kids,” Juliano said. “They could really tell a difference. They saw the result. They are starting to score more goals. My daughter just got her first goal up over the goalie’s shoulder and she gets excited about that.” 

Not only is Vandy helping with shooting and getting more goals for Juliano’s kids, but he is also helping them in a competition they have with their dad. 

“We have a scoring goal race competition,” Juliano said. “I’ve scored more goals than I normally do this year, so they recruited Vandy on their team and I think they’re beating me by like a goal this year.”

Getting ahead in the competition may be harder when his kids score the same weekends he does.

“Usually, I could probably tell you when I’m going to score,” Juliano said. “Last week my son scored on Thursday in his game and then on Saturday my daughter had a game in the afternoon, and she scored, so usually when they score I do too.”

Not only are his kids motivating him to score because of the competition, but his kids motivate him to be a role model on and off the ice. 

“I try to be a role model for them,” Juliano said. “They watch all my games and I think they learned a lot from watching me play. It’s a lot of fun seeing them take what they see at our games, and I see them do it in their games. It’s exciting to see them learn.” 

When Julinao isn’t playing hockey or helping out with his kids, he spends his time working at his family’s commercial glass company alongside his dad, older brother, and fellow teammate Jamie Milam. 

“It’s actually really convenient,” Juliano said. “My shop is about a four-minute drive from the rink, so I come into practice about 10 to nine, be on the ice, and get back to work at 10:30. JAMO (Jamie Milam) works for me, and if I need the help now and then, I try to some of the team so they can make some extra money.” 

Life is constantly busy for Juliano who according to Vandy leaves the house at six am and doesn’t get home until 5:30, has little time to eat dinner before taking his kids to hockey, and then back home by 8:30 and in bed. 

“I always like to be on the go,” Juliano said. “But in my free time I play in a golf league in the summer, but other than that we go up north. We have a cottage on the water in Houghton Lake. As far as doing anything fun, it’s just anything active.”

With his hockey career coming to a close and his life becoming a little less hectic, Juliano looks forward to spending his time being more involved in his kids' hockey career.

“I helped coach this year,” Juliano said. “But next year I’ll be there more. I’ve missed all of their tournaments, so it’ll be nice being able to be there.”

One thing Juliano looks forward to most is seeing the growth that is to come with both his daughter's and son’s teams. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Juliano said. “The girls are 10 and under and half the team is eight years old, so it’s a lot of fun seeing these younger girls beat up on the older ones. My son’s team, the head coach is a friend of mine and I’ve known him since I was little, so it was nice partnering up with him. We brought a bunch of house kids, and we have a tier three level travel, so they’re building to get to the next level which is awesome.” 

Juliano’s hockey career as a player is coming to a close and while he has learned so much about the game he loves, there’s one man who he learned a lot from.

“I learned a lot from a coach when I was younger,” Juliano said. “I played for him for seven years. Tim Zimmerman. He taught us a lot of stuff off the ice as far as being on time and being responsible. We used to have curfews at the weirdest times like 11:42 and the fact that he did that was, so you remember the time. He was a coach that held you accountable for everything. You had to call him to let him know that you’re not going to practice, not your parents. He taught me a lot of things that carried forward and led me to being responsible for when I was older.” 

Juliano is thankful for hockey and the lessons it has taught him, but what he is most thankful for is the things he wouldn't be able to experience without hockey.

“It's crazy,” Juliano said. “You play with a guy for a whole year or a team for a whole year and then you say bye to them and you might not see them again. Or maybe in 10 years, you run into them and you’re right back where it started. You will never meet as many people as you do in hockey.”

Aside from being thankful for the people he has met through hockey, he is thankful for the places he’s been able to go. 

“I’ve been to 10 different countries because of hockey,” Juliano said. ”30 to 40 states. I’ve been to Alaska and would have never been to Alaska if I didn’t play hockey.”