NHL Stars Refuse To Close The Book On Education

Nick Salen

The Sirens call of a pro contract can be hard to resist, even for the most dedicated student athlete. Still, a number of NHL are determined to finish what they started by pursuing their college degrees even as their careers take off.

Hugh Jessiman is one of the most recent skaters to return to the classroom. The former first-round draft choice recently boomeranged back to Dartmouth College, where it’s been nearly a decade since he was a big man on campus. While he is close to completing his undergraduate degree in history, he also hopes to make an impact with current Big Green players as a volunteer coach.

Current NHL stars and U.S. Olympians Ryan Miller and David Backes have also found time to squeeze in the rest of their studies.

Miller was known to bring his textbooks with him on the road as he progressed toward his business degree from Michigan State University. Backes meanwhile wrapped up his classes from Minnesota State University to earn an applied organizational studies degree. To him, an education is a no-brainer, as being a hockey player doesn’t last a lifetime.

“Education has always been a huge emphasis in my life. Why limit yourself to a dead end road, potentially, and all of a sudden you have nothing to do because you thought you were going to be a pro?” said Backes, who is in his ninth year with the St. Louis Blues.

“I’m still trying to come up with a backup plan for when this is over. We all can’t play forever, unfortunately.” Equally as impressive are Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad (University of Minnesota) and New York Islanders center Aders Lee (Notre Dame), who graduated with their respective classes despite forgoing their senior years.

Rookie sensation Johnny Gaudreau is also determined to keep a promise he made to his parents after signing an entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames just days after his junior season concluded at Boston College.

“I promised my mom that if I wanted to leave early, I still had to finish my degree,” he said. “That is a promise that I’m going to make sure I keep.”

“Johnny Hockey” isn’t alone in that venture, as Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug intends to keep a similar pledge by completing his political science degree from Michigan State.

“That’s something that I’ve always set my mind on doing,” Krug said. “The day I committed to Michigan State was the minute I committed to finishing my degree.”

And while the young Bruins blueliner is busy building a solid NHL career, he’s already looking ahead to seeing his kids follow in his footsteps.

“I’m going to send my kids college, no questions asked,” he said. “It’s the experience of the lifetime.”



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