Grand Rapids/Greenway freshman forward Mercury Bischoff lights it up for the Lightning
Sunday, October 31, 2021
Freshman forward Mercury Bischoff of Grand Rapids High School is much more than a 14-year-old hockey phenom; she’s a funny, hard working and adventurous multi-sport athlete.
Bischoff was one of the top goal-scorers in Minnesota during the 2020-2021 season as just an eighth grader, something that is nearly unheard of for such a young player. She tied for the 5th most goals in the state with 31 and also accumulated 25 assists on the season.
“Kind of right from the get-go, the points just started to show up, and it’s not that we were surprised, obviously, but what was obvious is that in that offseason she had elevated her game to another level,” said Brad Hyduke, Grand Rapids-Greenway head women’s hockey coach.
Hyduke said Bischoff had a growth spurt between seventh and eighth grade and spent a lot of time in the weight room during the offseason.
It also may have helped that Bischoff was linemates with the No. 4 top goal scorer in the state last season, former Miss Hockey finalist Claire Vekich, who had 32 goals and 30 assists. Veckich now attends Bemidji State University where she plays NCAA Division I hockey.
Bischoff said that she thought she and Vekich had good chemistry together on the ice.
Hyduke echoed Bischoff and said that the two played well together because of their opposite, yet cohesive, styles of play.
“We had her with another player that could obviously play off of her, and both of them are very skilled,” Hyduke said. “They have complimentary styles; they don’t play the same.”
Hyduke called Vekich a “big power forward,” but stated that Bischoff is “equally a good 200-foot player,” but just does not have the height and size that Vekich does yet.
Last season, the two combined for 63 of the team’s 96 total goals and both ranked within the top ten in the state in total goals and total points.
However, despite Bischoff being able to learn from the more experienced Vekich, she also had her distant cousin Jazzy Bischoff on the ice with her.
According to Mercury, Jazzy has been working out and improving a lot over this offseason to prepare. Mercury described her cousin as “good at defense” and “a great help for the team.”
Both girls started playing for Grand Rapids-Greenway in the same year, although Jazzy is two grades above Mercury.
“We started playing the same year of high school,” Mercury said. “It was our first game, we both got our first goal together and assists from each other.”
Jazzy was an assistant captain defenseman last season and has a strong history of hockey in her family. According to Hyduke, Jazzy’s father was on the U.S. men’s national ice hockey team and captain at the University of Minnesota years ago. Her brother is also in the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey system and played in the NHL last season.
Mercury also had her older brothers to push her to get better as she was growing up.
Bischoff fires against Holy Family's Sedona Blair at the recent High School Elite Fall League. Photo: Mike Lieb
Lucky is a current junior at Grand Rapids High School who plays hockey, but he is also an avid duck hunter. Her oldest brother, Hunter, is a 2021 graduate who is currently playing junior league hockey in Alaska for the Anchorage Wolverines.
Mercury attributes much of her learning and work ethic to Hunter, who was a team captain, scored 13 goals and added 13 assists in his senior season for Grand Rapids-Greenway.
“He was always there for helping with things, and he would always make me do things with him so I would get better,” Mercury said.
Growing up, Mercury frequently practiced with Hunter and was pushed to compete against him. Beyond practicing hockey with her brother, Bischoff grew up playing boys peewee hockey, which also helped her improve and be ready for high school girls hockey.
“It was my favorite thing ever because the boys welcomed me since I was always a part of being with them,” Bischoff said.
Bischoff enjoyed her time playing with boys and said it was a “good experience” because of the pace and extra effort that boys put into the game.
However, when Bischoff was old enough to start playing high school hockey, Hyduke knew that he had to have her on his team.
Bischoff’s first foray into playing with girls came in seventh grade when she was asked to join the Grand Rapids-Greenway team.
“It wasn’t that bad of an adjustment,” Bischoff said, stating that her time playing with boys prepared her well for the older age group of high school juniors and seniors that she played against.
One of the reasons why Hyduke wanted Bischoff to try out as a seventh grader was because of the high “hockey IQ” that she has. Hyduke claims that she is one of the most instinctual players he has ever seen.
“What really separates her from her peers is her tremendous set of instincts for hockey,” Hyduke said. “Her being able to play the game a play ahead of, really, everyone else on the ice is fun to watch.”
Hyduke stated Bischoff has “a lot of deception” in her game, which is important for when a forward wants to make a defender react in a certain way.
“Loves to be coached, loves to be told what she has to work on, and that’s not dime a dozen stuff for me. A lot of those kids that are very good struggle with wanting to be coached; clearly that wasn’t the case for her.” -GRG head coach Brad Hyduke Photo: Mike Lieb
Bischoff’s mother, Laura, also agrees with Hyduke’s playing-style sentiments, claiming that Mercury’s brothers also played a role. “I think that’s the benefit of having older siblings, too, because she kind of grew up not knowing anything different in the rink,” Laura said. “Going to all of your siblings’ games, you learn a lot just by watching.”
Beyond having instincts for hockey, Bischoff also has instincts for other sports as well. The Bischoff family has a rule that, when it’s not hockey season, the siblings must play another sport, so she chose tennis and softball.
As for tennis, Bischoff and her mom have seen the positive influence it has had on her hockey skill. The two agree that it has helped with Mercury’s hand-eye coordination, her ability to think quickly on her feet and her ability to contain her temper.
“It’s a mindset game,” Mercury said. “If you get mad at yourself, it’s kind of hard to come back from that mindset, but it’s still super fun and I try to stay positive with what I’m thinking.”
Bischoff is on the varsity team and has played doubles for the past two years. However, this year, she began playing singles and claims she “isn’t doing too bad with it.”
Bischoff also recently took up softball again—something her hockey coach thinks is good for her.
“Her goal is to be a varsity softball player, which is probably realistic for her in the next couple years, too,” Hyduke said. “She is that type of athlete that can pick things up and do well with them.”
Bischoff began playing softball and baseball when she was younger, but had to give up the sports due to her intense hockey schedule. Now, with there being a time without high school hockey before school ends, she is back on the field—center field, to be exact.
“My dad was telling me that I had to do a spring sport because there was a time where I didn’t have a lot of hockey going on, so I decided to go back to softball, and I love it,” Bischoff said.
She loves it so much, in fact, that Hyduke said he once received a text from Bischoff that said something like “Yeah, softball’s going well, I really like it. I’m quitting hockey.”
Of course Bischoff was joking, but it did give Hyduke a laugh.
Beyond hockey, tennis and softball, Bischoff loves spending days on the lake with her friends. She says she and her friends will frequently go tubing or jet skiing on lake days.
“When she’s not doing summer hockey stuff, she’s on the lake,” her mother said.
Her family owns T&M Marine, a pontoon boat sales company in Grand Rapids, which is part of the reason why she loves the water so much.
In the winter, Bischoff also loves to go snowboarding when she has time outside of hockey season. She mainly hangs out with friends from her high school hockey team when she snowboards, but her mom believes tennis and softball have been good ways for her to make more friends outside of her main sport.
Bischoff clearly stays busy with hockey, tennis and softball for much of the year, but when she isn’t playing sports or hanging out with friends on the lake, she can be found watching Disney+, Netflix series or Christmas movies year round.
With high school hockey beginning Nov. 1, it seems that Bischoff may not have much spare time to watch movies and television shows on top of practices and classwork. However, that’s okay with Bischoff because hockey is worth it to her.
“I just really love hockey,” she said with a laugh.
Cam Kauffman can be reached at kauf8536 at stthomas.edu.
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