Anybody with any familiarity with the area hockey scene knows the name Gabriel is to Kenai Peninsula hockey what Ford is to American automaking.
Kenai Central senior Jimmy Gabriel fits right into the Gabriel mold.
The senior defenseman played with 2002 Kenai Central graduate and cousin Brian Gabriel Jr. last year. His father, 1978 Kenai Central graduate Greg Gabriel Jr., also played hockey for the Kards. And his uncle, Brian Gabriel Sr., played for Kenai and currently coaches the Kardinals.
Numerous other Gabriels have spent time shuffling the puck for Kenai Central and Soldotna.
But recently, the name Gabriel has started to become as notorious with area car dealers as it is with area hockey fans.
Following the lead of a bet between Brian Gabriel Sr. and Brian Gabriel Jr., Jimmy made a bet with his father that if he earned a 4.0 grade point average in high school, his dad would buy him a new truck.
Brian Gabriel Jr. earned the new truck when he graduated this year, and Jimmy and his 4.0 grade point average are on track to score the truck at the end of the school year.
"He got the same deal Brian got, and I think he's gonna hold me to it," Greg said of his son. "I'm waiting for him to stumble at the finish line, but I don't think it's gonna happen.
"He's already been offered a pretty nice scholarship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, so it's paying off."
While it's possible to see Jimmy's pursuit of the 4.0 as the end game of a simple carrot-and-stick ploy, those who know Jimmy say he would have been headed for academic greatness without the bet.
Whether it's in hockey, class or commercial fishing on Prince William Sound, it is Jimmy's work ethic that sets him apart.
"He's interested in knowledge for its own sake," said Kenai Central science teacher Christine Bergholtz, who has taught Jimmy chemistry and physics. "Obviously, he's not driven by the truck because this is the first I've heard about that bet.
"It's all the Gabriels -- I have Jenna, too -- they're all driven from the inside and not from some carrot hung out there."
(Jenna, for those car dealers out there interested in some commission, is a Kenai Central student and is Brian Gabriel Sr.'s daughter. She's in on the car deal, as is Gabriel Sr.'s other daughter, Branda.)
As proof of Jimmy's academic authenticity, Bergholtz points to a chemistry test. Students were allowed to use note cards, and most students would have made sailors on any submarine proud with all the cramming and packing they did on their cards.
"His note card was blank, basically, Bergholtz said. "He didn't need to write anything down."
Instead of taking the easy path to the truck, Jimmy also elected to take potential tire-deflating classes like physics and calculus this year.
"This year, I'm really starting to see why doing well academically pays off," Jimmy said. "I see a lot of people stressing out about not being able to get into the colleges they want to because their grades aren't good enough."
Jimmy's work ethic also is apparent during the summer when he does commercial fishing with his father.
His fishing career started on Cook Inlet before he was 5 years old.
"The first day, I just had him sitting out of the way so he could watch," Greg Gabriel Jr. said. "When we got back to the beach, he was angry.
"I asked him why, and he said he was mad he didn't get to do anything. He's always taken on responsibility and enjoyed it."
Greg Gabriel Jr. said that responsibility has included having to direct older crew members.
"I don't even want to say they have to take orders from him, because he wouldn't give orders," Greg Gabriel Jr. said of his son. "His method is to lead by example.
"He doesn't say something, he jumps right in and starts doing it."
Brian Gabriel Sr. said living and working in close quarters with three other guys for three months weeds out those without people skills real quickly.
"That's helped him develop as a person, and it makes him a better teammate in hockey," Gabriel Sr. said.
Like most of the Gabriels, Jimmy has skated since he could walk. But he really started to come into his own as a hockey player when he transferred from Soldotna after his sophomore year.
Jimmy had only played on the junior varsity for the Stars, but at Kenai he was paired with Brian Gabriel Jr., reuniting a defensive pairing that first made its debut out on a frozen lake in Sterling years ago.
"I'm an only child, so he's the closest thing I've ever had to a brother," Jimmy said. "It was great playing with him. I learned a lot."
Gabriel Sr. said his confidence in Jimmy increased every time he put him on the ice.
"He made a pretty big jump up last year," Gabriel Sr. said. "He went from playing junior varsity to playing against some of the top varsity teams in the state, like SoHi and Colony."
Jimmy played well enough to finish fifth on the team in points last year.
"He shoots every time he gets the puck on the point," Gabriel Sr. said. "He generally puts the puck right in front of the net, and that's always a good play."
After fishing is over for the summer, Jimmy also enjoys hunting with his father and his mother, Michelle.
"We were goat hunting a couple of weeks ago, and he had a chance to shoot a nice, big billy goat," Greg Gabriel Jr. said. "He sat and watched him, but (the goat) was in a bad position, so (Jimmy) passed on the shot.
"There was a risk he wouldn't recover him. I think that says something about his character. He's turned into quite a young man."
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