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Emily Janiga: From Big Family Living, to Living Big Dreams

By Nicole Rao, 12/15/16, 1:30PM EST

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PHOTO CRED: Michael Hetzel

Let’s be honest, we all grew up as dreamers, but how many of us got to live out those dreams from our younger days?

There’s the old saying that ‘home is where the heart is,’ and for Buffalo’s Emily Janiga, this couldn't be more true. The Beauts forward has collected five points and counting so far in her professional rookie season but what’s more, is she is doing so in her very own hometown. Now that’s living the dream.

Janiga is a native to Western New York and like many Buffalo hockey youngsters, she has the Sabres jerseys to prove it. “Growing up, [Maxim] Afinogenov,” she recalled, when asked of her early hockey influences. A quick, crafty former Sabre forward from the late ‘90s as inspiration? Sounds about right. At every level, her proven speed and ability to convert mere chances to big points and has made Janiga an integral part of the Beauts offense in the early part of this season.

Janiga joins the Beauts after an impressive collegiate career with the Mercyhurst Lakers.  She amassed over 150 points by the end of her Laker tenure including twelve game winners and 25 collegiate power play goals, solidifying her as a player who is calm under pressure.

Her years at Mercyhurst, were the perfect precursor to her professional career with the Beauts, and were only a quick 90 mile trek down the interstate from Janiga’s roots in Buffalo.

“My family was a huge part of everything growing up. I mean, the reason why I’m here,” insisted Janiga. “I grew up with eight brothers and sisters,” she went on, “[I’m] number seven – the bottom end!” she added with a smile. “Six of us played hockey. There’s four girls, two – a set of twins below me and then one a year older than me, so we grew up playing together. I’d play with the twins, then the next year I’d play with my older sister because I was in that age gap – and there was a year when all four of us were on a team together!”

“We were always around the rink,” Janiga reminisced, “my brothers were a couple years older so we would watch their practices, they’d watch our practice. That was a huge part of everything growing up, and my aunts, uncles - they all played. I got to skate with them and just kind of use them as guidance, since I was one of the last ones to put the skates on.”

“We’d spend four hours there, you know? Because we had practice after practice – but I definitely have to give a lot of credit to my family for that.”


PHOTO CRED: Michael Hetzel

Janiga has not forgotten where she comes from and in addition to humbly crediting her family for her successes, she also recognizes the preparation she experienced at Buffalo’s prestigious Nichols School, “Everything, not just hockey - I think the school, everything prepared me for college and again, I thank my parents for giving me that opportunity and opening my eyes to that,” said Janiga.

In addition to its rigorous academics, the school has been graduating young women into the ranks of college hockey since the early ‘90s; in fact, the 2012 alum is not the only Nichols School graduate to pull on a Beauts sweater. “I got to play with a lot of talented players; actually, a few girls from the Beauts now - Grecko was a senior when I was a freshman, Pfalzy was a sophomore when I was a freshman,” she recalled.

The young Beaut is also doing her part to give back. “I’m actually back at Nichols now, coaching middle school,” the Nichols School alumna shared. “I enjoy it; I love being back there,” she beamed. ‘This community is just unbelievable; every time I turn around, I’m running into someone else and they’re like - “oh my gosh, welcome back!’ They’re just so supportive, everywhere I go around here.”


PHOTO CRED: Michael Hetzel

The Buffalo community has certainly embraced her, and although Emily Janiga’s professional career is merely just beginning, she exhibits a seasoned poise both on and off the ice. This can be seen perhaps at its best in her approach with the young athletes she trains, putting character first and focusing on steady development, a formula for success likely very close to home. “No matter what skill level or age level, I always teach respect, hard work, determination,” Janiga explained. “Those are kind of like the three go-tos that come to mind and when I’m out there, it doesn’t matter who you are, how good you are - you put those three things out there and you’re going to get better.”

“You don’t compare to who you’re standing next to - you compare to yourself, as long as you’re raising your bar and you’re progressing every day, then it’s a good day. It’s a successful day.”

With only the first half of her rookie season behind her, Emily Janiga has many of her own successful days ahead. “It’s a nice thing about the hockey world,” Janiga began, “it’s so small and you get to see familiar faces,” and with Janiga and fellow hometown players, Beauts fans are certainly glad for that.


Tickets to see Janiga and the Buffalo Beauts are available at nwhl.zone/tickets!