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Q2 AOW: Whitefish native Jake Sanderson living NHL dream at 21

Jake Sanderson Ottawa Senators
Posted at 5:20 PM, Feb 21, 2024

LAS VEGAS — Life is good for Jake Sanderson.

He makes a living — and a fine one, at that — skating on some of the world’s smoothest ice inside sold-out National Hockey League stadiums. Even better, the Whitefish native is a starter for the Ottawa Senators, earning a multi-million-dollar contract at age 21.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to be a goalie, but my parents wouldn’t let me," Sanderson told MTN Sports with a smile. "Thank God they didn’t.”

Jake Sanderson visits with MTN Sports' Scott Breen

Sanderson is a defenseman whose skill stretches well beyond defense. Blink, and you might miss No. 85 scoring — from the blue line or elsewhere. He's nearly as dangerous with a slap shot as he is arms and legs sprawling to bail out his goalie.

MTN Sports caught up with Sanderson in Las Vegas for a game against the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights, who Montana's Television Network and Scripps Sports have partnered with to air live regular season games free on these channels. VGK and Ottawa meet again Saturday at 5 p.m. MST.

Meanwhile, Sanderson's mother and younger brother had flown into Las Vegas for the first meeting.

“I actually didn’t get them seats," Sanderson sheepishly confessed. "They got their own seats. … I think some connections, so, ah, who knows where they'll be sitting.”

Better connections than family? Maybe they were treated to the owner's suite.

Ottawa lost 6-3, but the Sandersons took advantage of time away from T-Mobile Arena.

“We just walked around a lot, went on the Strip. We saw the Bellagio water fountain show, which was pretty cool,” Jake Sanderson said.

Sanderson's parents still own a home in Whitefish where he was nearly born on skates. His father, Geoff, was a left winger drafted by the Hartford Whalers and played for eight NHL teams. Sanderson said his parents now split time between Calgary and Whitefish, where Jake still loves summers.

“(I do) a lot of hiking. Living on a lake in Whitefish, a lot of swimming and fishing and all that," he said.

Naturally, Sanderson can’t ski Whitefish Mountain while it coincides with the NHL's regular season, but he said he grew up shredding plenty of snow and playing "pretty much every sport in middle school and high school and whatnot.”

Jake Sanderson

Then he turned his full attention to hockey and just last September earned an eight-year contract worth over $64 million. What does a 21-year-old with such a lofty bankroll spend his money on these days? Nothing extremely lavish — at least not for this guy.

“After last season I got myself a truck, so that was probably my first big purchase, an F-150,” he humbly said.

As a cornerstone for the Senators, Sanderson volunteers time in the Ottawa community with teammates but said he doesn’t get recognized much, "except maybe at the mall."

Sanderson said his younger brother is in college and "maybe wants to get into sports business." Maybe even becomes Jake's agent someday?

“I told him when he graduates, he could maybe be my agent … and again, in the far future,” he said with another laugh.

In the near future, Sanderson continues to turn heads on the ice — and keep Big Sky Country in his heart.

“Just to be able to represent Montana and Whitefish as a town, it’s pretty special to me,” he said.