The Selkirk College Saints are a vital part of student life on campus and in the community. The student athletes that pull on the Selkirk College jersey are committed to excellence both on the ice and off. These are the stories of the programs they choose and the challenges they face to ensure a winning combination of athletics and academics.
Joe Gage: Building the Proper Foundation
For second-year Selkirk College Saints defenceman Joe Gage, measuring success both on and off the ice is about the how the crew gets along. If the teamwork vibe is strong, everything flows from there.
Originally from Campbell River, Joe Gage says the West Kootenay reminds him a lot of home with the bounty of great outdoor activities available at his backdoor.
Since he was 16, Gage has worked summers as a carpenter in his hometown of Campbell River. Like a hockey team, the 6’2” rearguard is drawn to the team dynamic that is vital to success in the trade.
“I enjoy working with a group of carpenters on a project,” he says. “It’s kind of similar to hockey, you have that locker room environment where you help each other out and bounce ideas off each other. Working hard and seeing that final product is rewarding. It comes down to your crew, if you have a good crew then it’s enjoyable.”
Gage developed his solid two-way game on the west coast where he played in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League with his hometown Campbell River Storm, the Nanaimo Buccaneers, Comox Valley Glacier Kings and captained the Westshore Wolves in 2016-2017.
Once his junior career was over, Gage was set to plunge into carpentry full time and start his post-hockey life. Just prior to the 2018-2019 season, he succumbed to a desire to continue at a competitive level and enroled in the Selkirk College Business Administration Program.
An outdoor lover who enjoys mountain biking and any other activity that requires fresh air, Gage admits that getting back into school in the West Kootenay after a three-year absence wasn’t easy.
“It’s an adjustment to start with school and this area is so great you also get distracted with all the fun things to do. It caught up to me pretty quick last year and I learned that you need to tuck the time away at night to get your homework done.”
To help ensure success off the ice, Gage has utilized peer tutoring and benefitted from the many group activities presented in the School of Business. Now into his second year, Gage finds that the vital teamwork vibe is also found in the classroom.
“Everybody is willing to bend over backwards to help you, Selkirk College is very supportive.”
Once hockey is over, Gage will use the knowledge gained in business and combine it with his carpentry background. While playing junior hockey, he completed the first of four in-class levels required to attain a Red Seal. With plenty of hours in the field already under his toolbelt, that goal is within reach. Once complete, he hopes to eventually start a contracting company that focuses on renovations.
“I enjoy seeing something that not very nice transformed into a new space where people can live and helping turn people’s dreams into reality. Bringing people’s vision come to life is very rewarding.”
You can bet that he’ll have a good crew along with him.
Nolan Percival: Making It Count in the Classroom
Leadership is about setting an example, both on the ice and off. For second-year Saints forward Nolan Percival, that tenet extends beyond the Selkirk College dressing room.
Second-year Saints forward Nolan Percival is working towards his Associate of Arts Degree and then plans on pursuing an Advanced Diploma in GIS.
Named one of the team’s assistant captains for the 2019-2020 season, Percival brings a humble, lead-by-example approach to the Saints. But when it comes to his little brother who plays on the Kootenay Ice Midget AAA team just down the road in Trail, the big brother raises the stakes as the first one in his family to embark on a post-secondary pathway.
“I didn’t apply myself in high school like I should have and clearly had some growing up to do. I tell Kaleb that he needs to look at the bigger picture. You need to make sure you are getting all your work done and that you form a relationship with your teachers because they want you to succeed. When I look back, I didn’t do that as much as I should have.”
Percival began his Junior B career with his hometown Nelson Leafs at the age of 16. He played five seasons in the KIJHL that included a memorable 2016-2017 campaign where he helped lead the Beaver Valley Nitehawks to a provincial championship and second place finish in the Keystone Cup. That team included current Saints teammates Dylan Heppler, Tallon Kramer, Blake Sidoni and Evan Gorman.
It was while with the Nitehawks that Percival was able to discover what it takes to create a championship atmosphere in the dressing room and on the ice.
“It’s a metal state,” he says. “Everybody can play, they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t. You all have to be on the same page, because if you’re not then it’s not going to work.”
Since arriving to the classrooms of Selkirk College, Percival has embraced his education in the School of University Arts & Science with new enthusiasm. After he completes his Associate of Arts Degree this spring, the 22-year-old is leaning towards continuing his studies in pursuit of an Advanced Diploma in GIS (Geographic Information Systems).
In every learner’s successful educational journey, there is usually a teacher who provides inspiration for learning. Percival points to Selkirk College Geography instructor Allison Lutz as a key figure in his interest.
“It’s huge to have great instructors. Allison made it easy to enjoy the classes and focus on what you are doing. She created a stress-free environment because she really gave people a chance to succeed. Once you are in a situation like that, then it makes it easier to move forward with all your classes.”
Parker Wakaruk: Leading the Way Through Experience
Navigating the life of a student-athlete is not easy. Lectures, tests, homework and papers combine with practice, games, workouts and volunteer activities to produce a tricky balance that places focus on time management.
Since arriving to Selkirk College in 2017, Saints third-year defenceman Parker Wakaruk has found new focus both on the ice and off.
Saints captain Parker Wakaruk knows the grind well. Since arriving to Selkirk College in 2017 straight out of junior hockey, the Business Administration Program student has become a leader both on and off the ice.
“It has been a process of learning to become a student again,” says the 23-year-old who took three years off school while playing junior. “You need to pay attention to deadlines and figure out what works for you… and what doesn’t. My study habits have definitely gotten a lot better, so now I can utilize my time more efficiently.”
The rugged defenceman started in the School of Academic Upgrading to regain his confidence in the classroom and decide his educational pathway. In his second semester, Wakaruk chose Business Administration and is now closing in on graduation in Spring 2020.
As he continues to grow as a learner and lay the foundation for a future career, the enthusiasm for the game that brought him to the West Kootenay has not waned.
“It comes down to a love for the sport,” says Wakaruk, who has twice been named to the year-end BCIHL all-star team. “After spending all day in class and studying, hockey is a perfect release. It’s great to come to the rink and hang out with your buddies for a couple of hours. Working hard towards a common goal is contagious, it makes it easy to come to the rink and push yourself to be better.”
Outside the classroom and arena, Wakaruk has faced adversity that has shaped his outlook on life. He played his final junior season with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos in 2016-2017 and when a tragic bus accident killed 16 players and team personnel in April 2018, Wakaruk had to come to terms with the weight of heavy grief.
“It was devastating… you don’t want to believe what you heard and that it’s real,” he says. “It gives you perspective on how quickly things can be taken away from you and how quickly things can change without warning or any real reason. You have to deal with it and figure out ways to get through it, you grow from it.”
Already one of the best blueliners to ever pull on a Saints jersey, Wakaruk is proud to wear the “C” and continue to build pride in Selkirk College.
“If a letter changes the way you act, you probably shouldn’t have one in the first place,” he says of his approach. “There is more responsibility, but leadership comes from within. I lead by example, stay positive and bring an energy that helps the team succeed.”
Devin Nemes: Better To Play With Than Against
In the hockey melting pot that is the Selkirk College Saints, players who were once bitter foes in the junior ranks become cherished teammates. As the sport often goes, the guy you loathed playing against can one day be sitting next you on the bench.
Sophomore Saints forward Devin Nemes is one of those players. With a sandpaper approach to the game, his gritty play attracts plenty of praise from teammates and ample moments of dread from opponents.
“It’s probably not too fun to play against me, I have asked a few guys on other teams and they are not fans. But that’s the way I play the game.”
Devin Nemes is working on a future in the Carpentry Program and sprinkling his training with classes in the Business Adminstration Program.
Nemes grew up in Calgary and arrived to Selkirk College after three seasons in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Fernie Ghostriders. Growing up, his family spent summer vacations in Christina Lake. When the time came to decide on his post-junior pathway, Selkirk College provided the perfect combination of a great location, an opportunity to continue with his hockey career and a chance to start post-secondary after three years away from the classroom.
As a student, Nemes is splitting time between the Business Administration Program and the Carpentry Program.
“It was a big adjustment to get back into school again after three years of just playing hockey and working,” says the 23-year-old. “You don’t use your brain in the school way and I wasn’t used to being in class all day. You just have to battle through the first little bit and then it starts to become more natural again.”
Neme’s role on the ice has been elevated during his second season. He has become an important contributor to the Saints balanced offence attack while continuing to provide a gritty two-way game that makes it hard for opponents to play against.
“I finish my checks every chance I get, it makes it unpredictable for the next time. When I am more emotional and involved, it keeps me in the game.”
In a dressing room full of teammates who arrived from a variety of different junior teams, Nemes quickly discovered that former hostile adversaries can become great teammates and good friends.
“You may not have been a fan of the guy playing against them, but once you get to know them as a teammate the bonds are pretty quick.”
Enjoying the post-secondary experience both on and off the ice, Nemes is likely to return for a third season to continue with his academics and athletics.
“It’s an unreal introduction to post-secondary, I love Selkirk College. I don’t know how I would do in a larger school because I like the smaller community feel. You get to know a lot of other students away from hockey and that helps.”
Josh Slanina: Taking a Chance and Getting a Shot
When his teammates were in the thick of their junior hockey careers, freshman Selkirk College Saints forward Josh Slanina was focused on his paying the bills in Kitimat.
Unlike his teammates, Saints freshman forward Josh Slanina didnt' play junior hockey before coming to play in the BCIHL.
Growing up in the remote northern BC town, Slanina had a passion for hockey and played at a competitive level when he was young. Instead of pursuing the lure of junior hockey after high school, he grabbed his lunch bucket and went to work as a carpenter.
“Playing at a higher level is something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’m very grateful to be getting that chance now,” the 27-year-old says of his first year in the BCIHL. “The league is so competitive and everybody is so passionate about hockey, it’s a great atmosphere to be surrounded in.”
Located on the Douglas Channel, Kitimat is home to the Alcan aluminum refinery and the recently announced $40 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. It’s a blue-collar town that gets plenty of snow in the winter and like the West Kootenay, offers a bounty of outdoor recreation.
After high school graduation, Slanina joined the Kitimat Ice Demons, a senior men’s team that plays in the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL). Slanina describes the CIHL as a “working man’s league” with varied levels of skill. He played eight seasons with the Ice Demons where he started out as the one of the youngest in the league.
“You learn a lot from the older guys, when I was a younger guy there was a lot of experience in the dressing room,” says Slanina, who eventually co-captained the team for five years.
While working as a carpenter, Slanina pursued his formal education at Coast Mountain College’s Terrace Campus where he earned the first three years of his goal of becoming a journeyperson. During the winter, he would play with the Ice Demons where he was a valuable contributor to the team’s offence.
This past summer, Slanina was looking for a little more. While doing research on where to complete his carpentry education, he discovered Selkirk College and the Saints hockey program. Though he owns a house and his life was moving along in a way few college hockey recruits enter the league, the chance to give competitive hockey one more shot was too good to pass up. He called Saints’ head coach Brent Heaven and the veteran bench boss told Slanina he was welcome to come for a tryout.
“I had a lot of doubt that I would make the team, but the love of the game kept me going.”
Slanina made the team. In his first regular season BCIHL game, the 27-year-old rookie scored his first goal in a Saints uniform against Simon Fraser University. At least five years older than his teammates, Slanina’s enthusiasm for playing at a high level of hockey is unmatched both on the ice and off.
“I still feel like a young guy because I didn’t experience the junior hockey life that my teammates did. In that respect, I feel like I’m the youngest guy. But I bring a lot of life experience to the table, so it’s good to share that with my teammates too.”
In the first semester, Slanina finished his fourth year of classroom study in the Carpentry Program and earned his Red Seal. This semester, he is enroled in the Business Administration Program acquiring knowledge he hopes will help start his own company.
Proud to be the oldest member of the team (and likely the league), Slanina says his story is one of determination and not being afraid to take a chance.
“It’s never too late. If you have always had the passion for accomplishing something, there may be doubts. But what’s the worst that can happen? If this didn’t work out for me, then I still would have had a job to go back to. If you take the chance, you won’t regret it.”
Edward Lindsey: Hometown Pride and Lessons Learned
In the past 20 years, few Castlegar-raised players have matched the career Edward Lindsey put together over the course of his minor hockey and junior runs. One of the Castlegar Rebels’ all-time memorable talents, the 21-year-old is second in all-time franchise points and games, third in all-time goals.
Edward Lindsey grew up in Castlegar, played five seasons of junior for the Castlegar Rebels and has now entered his next chapter with the Selkirk College Saints where he is enroled in the School of University Arts & Sciences.
“It was a great place to grow up playing hockey,” he says of his five full seasons with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Rebels. “With the communities of Castlegar, Trail and Nelson all being such good rivals, it was cool experience to get a chance to continue with that in junior and represent my community.”
Though he excelled on the ice, Lindsey admits that the rigours of junior hockey took a toll on his academics. Starting his stint in Junior B at the tender age of 16, Lindsey had a hard time finding the right balance in high school while playing a seven-month season that included almost 50 games and daily practices/workouts.
“I probably could have handled high school and playing hockey a little better. When you are playing junior at 16 and most of your teammates are out of school, it’s a little tough to focus and I didn’t give the school side the time it needed.”
After leading the 2017-2018 Rebels in scoring during his final season where he also ended up fourth overall in the league with 75 points, Lindsey didn’t need to look for his next hockey chapter.
“Having grown up here, I have seen the success of the Saints program and how the community rallies behind the team, so I wanted to be part of it,” Lindsey says. “The school part was a big draw because of the small class sizes and the ability you have to transfer into bigger schools if you want. It’s a great fit and I was very happy when they asked me to play for Selkirk College.”
After a three-year break from school, Lindsey returned to class in September and enroled in the School of University Arts & Sciences where he has discovered the proper hockey-school balance.
“That’s what I love about Selkirk College. You play hockey, but it’s the student part that gets way more preference. If you are not doing well in school, then you are not going to get a chance to play. There is an emphasis on completing your work and taking time to focus in the classroom.”
With an eye on a future in sports journalism, Lindsey dug in during his first semester and has realized a new passion for education.
“Taking the three years off from school helped me mature as a person. I came in with a completely new mindset towards school and have had a chance to refocus on how I’m doing things.”
On the ice, Lindsey has helped fill the offensive void left by graduating players and as the second semester gets underway leads the Saints in points.
“I thought I would come in and be a role player, which was fine with me. It’s been nice that I have been able to be relied upon more for scoring goals and helping offensively because that’s what I love to do. It’s a big responsibility, but that’s what I was doing for the last couple of years in junior.”
Dylan Heppler: Farm Roots Pay Dividends
Hard work and resourcefulness runs through Dylan Heppler’s veins. That’s what growing up on a farm in southern Alberta will do.
In the first year with the Saints, Machinist/Millwright Program student Dylan Heppler is one of the offensive leaders on the team.
“It’s an oddity these days and not a lot of people know much about it,” Heppler says about farm life. “I wouldn’t trade it in for any other kind of upbringing. I was blessed to grow up on a farm and it’s shaped me into what I am today.”
Heppler’s family has been farming and raising cattle near Warner, Alberta for four generations. Now a student in the Millwright/Machinist Program on Nelson’s Silver King Campus, his academic choice is based on his past experience as he works towards a future career.
“It was always full summers of farm work and cattle work, I grew up to love it. I’m branching off in a bit of direction for my education, but it’s still sticking with my roots. On the farm it’s hands-on, you have to fix it to get your work done. This program falls in hand-in-hand with that idea. The program is obviously more advanced than what we did on the farm, but I did have some background coming in.”
With a population of 373, the Village of Warner has its own arena which provided Heppler with a foundation for his early strides in hockey. Just as importantly, his time spent in minor hockey was complimented by the most rural Canadian pastime of all.
“We all have dugouts and ponds… that’s where you first learn how to skate and play hockey. It’s really a place where you hone your creativity growing up, there is nobody there to judge you or tell you what to do. It’s whatever comes to mind and you can try out different things, it’s really where you learn to love the game.”
By the time he reached peewee, Heppler’s creativity and skills had outgrown his home community and his family started to make the drive a half-hour up the highway to Taber where he could play rep hockey. While playing in the Alberta provincials during his final year of midget, Heppler’s offensive prowess and tenacity caught the eye of scouts from the Beaver Valley Nitehawks who invited him to their spring camp.
Heppler played three seasons for the Nitehawks where he was a key ingredient when the powerhouse KIJHL team captured a 2017 provincial championship. In his last season (2017-2108), he led the squad in scoring where he had become a reliable leader on the ice.
“It’s an unbelievable program to be part of and I am very fortunate to have played junior in Beaver Valley because it was an awesome experience.”
When he made the choice to suit up for the Selkirk College Saints, Heppler was happy to continue with some of the other Nitehawks alumni who also made the jump to post-secondary. He was also interested in joining the Saints who arrived from other KIJHL teams that were once heated rivals.
“I was intrigued to play with some of the players that I butted heads with in the past. Now, some of my best friends on the team played in different jerseys when we were in junior.”
The rigours of being a trades student and playing hockey can be a challenge. The Millwright/Machinist Program runs full pace from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with homework, workouts, practices and games mixed into the life of a student-athlete. Raised to embrace hard work and tackling tasks under challenging conditions, student life is something Heppler is embracing.
“With school you feel like you are accomplishing a task every day, so it’s fun. I want to be a millwright/machinist, so I’m doing that. I wanted to be a college hockey player, and I’m doing that. I’m pretty happy with my situation right now.”
Brayden McCartney: How to Build a Promising Future
Brayden McCartney understands the importance of a solid foundation. With his sights set on a career in the construction industry, the hardnosed defenceman is first acquiring the knowledge needed to build a business.
Born-and-raised in Campbell River, McCartney has been building his skills as a carpenter since he was 15. When he enroled in Selkirk College at the start of the 2017-2018 season, he chose the Business Administration Program as his educational stream.
“If you want to have success in the field then it’s important to have a solid understanding of the business aspect,” says McCartney, whose long-term goal is to have his own contracting company. “You can’t just be a good carpenter, you have to understand the other part of it as well.”
Brayden McCartney is in his second year with the Selkirk College Saints. He was named one of the team's assistant captains at the start of this season.
Growing up on Vancouver Island, McCartney enjoyed being part of a supportive community where hockey was one of the primary recreational outlets. He played all his minor hockey in Campbell River and after graduation went to play for the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Comox Valley Glacier Kings. He returned home for his final season of junior to play with the Campbell River Storm, a team that is highly successful and enjoys a great deal of fan support.
“It’s a hockey-based community. Towns have their sport and in Campbell River, it seems like everybody is around the rink. What I like about it is that kids continue to play all the way through and don’t drop off.”
Following in the footsteps of former Saints Dane Feeney, Nathan Browne and Jordan Rauser who also played junior in Campbell River, when it came to his choice for post-secondary McCartney made the journey to the West Kootenay.
“What drew me to Selkirk College is that the hockey program puts focus on the student-athlete aspect. It was important for me to get back to learning and continue to focus on school.”
Selkirk College offers a Carpentry Program, but McCartney decided to put down the hammer and throw his energy into understanding the business side of a future in trades. Though he stepped away from school for three years while finishing his junior hockey career, McCartney found his way back into the classroom without much difficulty.
“Balancing school and hockey is tiring at times, but if you love what you do then it’s much easier to make it work. Getting to play hockey and also go to school, that’s pretty fun, so when it gets difficult then you just push through.”
After a solid first year with the Saints, McCartney was named an assistant captain for the 2018-2019 season where his grit and courage in the defensive zone helps inspire his teammates.
At this point, the 22-year-old plans to finish up the Business Administration Program at Selkirk College and then consider starting his formalized Carpentry training at Nelson’s Silver King Campus. From there, a return to the Island to start his post-hockey career in the construction industry is the goal.
“I made the right choice with the Business Administration Program, I don’t want to jump in without knowing the business side of it.”
Tyler Hartman: Getting the Job Done
Tyler Hartman’s alarm wakes him just after 6 a.m. every school day morning for a lengthy routine that includes over an hour of commuting, seven hours of school, a couple of hours of study, some fitness and then practice.
It’s a gruelling routine requiring the same determined grit the Plant Operator Program student mirrors in games.
“It’s an intense and immersive program, it’s a lot like having a job.”
Saints second-year forward Tyler Hartman is a student in the Plant Operator Program based out of Nelson's Silver King Campus.
The 22-year-old forward arrived to the West Kootenay riding the same Grande Prairie pipeline from Northern Alberta that many in regional hockey circles used to discover this part of British Columbia. He joined the KIJHL’s Beaver Valley Nitehawks after graduating high school and played three seasons with the Fruitvale-based team.
“It was awesome coming to the Kootenays for the first time. It’s still awesome to look out and see the mountains and the scenery. It’s a whole new lifestyle than where I grew up in Alberta.”
In his final season with the Nitehawks, Hartman helped lead the franchise to a KIJHL championship in 2017. Along with current Saints Dylan Heppler, Tallon Kramer and Nolan Percival, the Nitehawks were an overtime loss away from claiming the Keystone Cup which determines the best Junior B team in Western Canada.
“The feeling with that organization is pretty special, it’s a winning organization that is always striving for excellence.”
In his first year at Selkirk College, Hartman enroled in the Business Administration Program where he had to bear down after being away from school for three years.
“It was a game changer for me. I went from my primary focus being just hockey to a full schedule that wasn’t just about hockey. All of a sudden you have to spend time studying, worrying about your fitness and playing hockey. It was difficult at first.”
This season, Hartman switched to the Plant Operator Program based out of Nelson’s Silver King Campus. With fellow trades-based teammates Cole Arcuri and Heppler, the trio make the trip to-and-from Nelson each day for class.
With an eye on using his education as a springboard to working in industry, this will likely be Hartman’s last season of organized competitive hockey. Happy for the opportunity to have his hockey talents carry him onto an education, he is thankful that the Saints program looks towards enhancing its roster through teams in the region that Selkirk College serves.
“The Selkirk College program brings in more Junior B players than the other teams in our league. It’s a step up from Junior B for sure, but when we get out on the ice you can’t really tell the difference between who played Junior A and who played Junior B. Selkirk College gives players like me a chance, it’s a second wind to try a new league out and get an education.”
Hartman’s drive to find success in the classroom is echoed by his tenacity to succeed on the ice. Named one of the team’s assistant captains this season, few players in the BCIHL work as hard. It’s a trait that runs deep in the Saints dressing room.
“We understand how hard the people off the ice work to make this happen, people like [Athletics Coordinator] Kim Verigin, [Head Coach] Brent Heaven and everybody else involved in the team. They want us to win and the fans who come see the games want to see us win… so we give 100 per cent for sure.”
Tallon Kramer: Keeping an Eye on the Long Game
The road to becoming an optometrist is a marathon post-secondary adventure that can take up to nine years. Saints goaltender Tallon Kramer has the keys and is starting his learning journey in the classrooms of the Castlegar Campus.
Saints' goaltender Tallon Kramer is a student in the School of University Arts & Sciences with a focus on becoming an optometrist.
Raised in Grande Prairie, Alberta where minor hockey roadtrips were arduous and keeping a focus on school was not easy, Kramer never blinked when it came to putting in extra time hitting the books and making good grades.
“I like school… I never skipped a single class in high school or took a single spare.”
After graduating from high school in his hometown, Kramer decided to leave the flatness of northern Alberta and fled to the mountains of British Columbia where he became a valued member of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. In his final season, Kramer’s stellar play was key as the Nitehawks claimed the 2017 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) championship and was one heartbreaking overtime loss away from helping the Fruitvale-based team to the Keystone Cup that determines the best Junior B squad in Western Canada.
“It was a pretty special team that year, every player was good,” says Kramer, who had current Saints forwards Tyler Hartman, Dylan Heppler and Nolan Percival as teammates. “It was the best year of hockey that I have been part of. As a goaltender, I had so much faith in the team that was in front of me that my confidence went through the roof.”
After junior, Kramer headed to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota where he played one semester for the ACHA Division I school. Missing the mountains, he returned to the West Kootenay after Christmas to attend Selkirk College and joined the Saints at the start of 2018.
“The mountains, the clean water, the weather, the culture, it’s beautiful here,” he says about his adopted home. “People are so laid back and welcoming… that just doesn’t happen everywhere and it’s special here.”
Kramer is now in his second year of study in the School of University Arts & Sciences where he is focused on laying the foundation for a Bachelor of Science. The rigours of being a student-athlete are difficult, but Kramer continues to maintain his passion for learning.
“Time management is huge, you have to sometimes sacrifice sleep to finish homework,” he says. “Mixing in practice and workouts makes for a busy schedule, but you have to find time.”
It helps that fellow goaltender Patrick Zubick has the same passion for both keeping the puck out of the Saints’ net and finding success in school.
“It’s helpful to have a teammate in your classes and taking similar courses. It creates an even stronger bond.”
Hockey drew Kramer to Selkirk College and his goal is to help the Saints claim a BCIHL championship this coming spring. The 21-year-old knows that success for the long-game means building his academic resume in hopes of eventually becoming an eye doctor
“The skills you learn from hockey like teamwork, commitment, hard work, dedication… it definitely helps. I think playing hockey at this level will be valuable when it comes time to apply for optometry school and once I get in then the time I have spent both studying and playing will help me be successful.”
Jackson Bruce-Fuoco: Finding Success Out West
Having started his post-secondary journey at Carleton University in Ottawa, Jackson Bruce-Fuoco appreciates the quaintness of pursuing his studies at Selkirk College.
Jackson Bruce-Fuoco is a student in the Business Administration Program based out of the Castlegar Campus.
“I went from having 400 to 600 students in a class to having 40, it’s obviously a big difference,” says the 22-year-old defenceman. “You get to know your instructors personally and they know you are a hockey player who has these extra demands on time, so they provide help when you need it. You are much more engaged in the class because you are not just a number. You have a number here, but the instructors call you by your first and last name and not your number.”
After growing up playing hockey in the Ottawa area, Bruce-Fuoco decided to head west after his first year of university. He ended up playing two seasons for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), a world away from life in the nation’s capital.
“It was a small town and I was a little unsure when I arrived, but I grew to like it and now really enjoy living in a smaller community.”
Coached by former Saints coach Jeff Dubois in Creston, after his final year of junior Bruce-Fuoco stayed in the West Kootenay and made his way across the Salmo-Creston Pass to play for Selkirk College at the start of the 2016-2017 season.
After taking civil and environmental engineering at Carleton University, Bruce-Fuoco decided that educational trajectory was not for him and he enroled in the Business Administration Program. With a solid educational background coming into the program, Bruce-Fuoco is an A-student who understands how to balance the life of a student athlete.
“I’ve been fortunate to get good grades, but it just comes down to putting the time and work in. You need to balance the workouts and hockey and school all together, but you have to realize there is always plenty of time to get your school work done if you are organized.”
In his first season with the Saints, Bruce-Fuoco benefited from the mandatory first-year study hall sessions that take place weekly. Now a veteran, he lends a hand to those working their way back into academics.
“I get requests for help quite often and I’m happy to lend a hand to the first-years in the Business Program. At times it makes more sense to hear it from a teammate or a peer, so that’s an important part of being on this team.”
With one more season left with the Saints, Bruce-Fuoco plans to continue working towards his degree once he graduates from Selkirk College. His choice to head west is paying dividends.
“Selkirk College is perfect for students who are not necessarily sure what they are doing with their education, but want to get an introduction by getting a diploma first. You can still go to a bigger school after you graduate, but you save money and are still further ahead.”
Brady Ward: The Right Fit in an Outdoor Environment
Brady Ward’s decision to attend Selkirk College was hockey-based, but since arriving to the West Kootenay his passion for learning has taken hold and pushing the Prince Rupert native in a direction that appears to be a perfect fit.
One of the most popular players on the ice because of his gritty style of play, Brady Ward is a student in the RFW Program.
Now in his second season with the Saints, Ward chose the Recreation, Fish & Wildlife (RFW) Program at the start of this season where he is pursuing a pathway that meshes with his upbringing on British Columbia’s north coast.
“Prince Rupert is a fishing community and I grew up on the water,” says the 23-year-old. “It felt pretty natural to choose a program where I can expand my knowledge and explore careers that will keep me in that environment.”
Ward finished his junior career as a member of the stellar 100 Mile House Wranglers team that in 2015-2016 captured the Kootenay International Hockey League (KIJHL) championship, the provincial Cyclone Taylor Cup and finished with the Keystone Cup as the best Junior B team in Western Canada. His championship pedigree caught the eye of Saints’ coach Brent Heaven who invited him to pursue his post-secondary hockey career at Selkirk College.
Ward started the classroom part of his journey in the School of Academic Upgrading where he focused on getting his high school marks to the level required to enter the RFW Program.
“Being out of school for a few years, it was a tough transition jumping back into it. But even from the first couple of weeks at Selkirk College, there was help to learn how to study better and become a better student through time management.”
Invigorated by his early success in the classroom, at the start of the 2017-2018 academic year he enthusiastically jumped into his new educational pathway. Having spent the last five summers working at fishing lodges on Dundas Island and Haida Gwaii, the knowledge and skills he’s gaining are building towards a career as a Conservation Officer or Fishery Officer.
“Getting to come to school where you are actually enjoying what you are learning is great. When you are in a program that puts focus on something I actually want to do for the rest of my life, I’m definitely motivated to come to school every morning.”
One of the most popular Saints at home games, Ward’s physical style and gritty play prompt enthusiastic cheers from his peers.
“It’s a tight group,” Ward says of the RFW Program. “We are a class of 86 and I can tell you everyone’s name. The camaraderie is awesome. When they come to the games to cheer you on, it gets the blood flowing and helps make you work harder.”
Ward has embraced life as a student and he credits the learning environment for his newfound zeal.
“It’s great to be at a small school. The overall small-class atmosphere helps you focus and hone in on skills you didn’t even know you had. The instructors care about you and your success.”
Ward played for the Saints between 2016 and 2018.
Parker Sharp: Classic Canadian Hockey Resume
Parker Sharp’s pre-Selkirk College hockey passport has stamps that include communities both rich in hockey history and those a little more obscure: Lloydminster (Alberta), The Pas (Manitoba), Beaverlodge (Alberta), Peace River (Alberta) and Bottineau (North Dakota). It’s a classic Canadian background that makes the first-year Saints forward smile when he reflects on the long bus trips and icy northern temperatures.
In his first season with the Saints, Parker Sharp has been an important on-ice contributor and mainstay in the BCIHL top-20 scoring leaders.
“I moved around a little during junior trying to find the right fit,” says Sharp, who grew up in the Grande Prairie region. “I was fortunate to finish junior with the North Peace Navigators where we won a championship.”
Sharp was the assistant captain and vital contributor on the Peace River-based Navigators who captured the Alberta Junior B Championship and then went on to claim bronze in the Keystone Cup that determines the best team in Western Canada.
After a season with the Dakota College Lumberjacks, Sharp returned to Canada at the start of this season where he enroled in the Business Administration Program.
“The standard of excellence set by this group and those before it, that’s the main reason I decided to come to Selkirk College. When a team wins four championships in a row, that obviously shows the quality of the program.”
Sharp plans to parlay his education at Selkirk College into a career which involves sports-specific training for young athletes.
“It’s a very good program, the instructors are great and the class sizes are small. If you need to hold up class to ask questions, it’s not a big deal. You get a lot out of the time you spend in the classroom.”
On the ice, Sharp has been an important contributor to the Saints’ success at both ends of the ice. The speedy centre is in the top-20 of BCIHL league scoring and his championship experience will help bolster the team’s chances of reclaiming the league championship this coming March.
“What separates us from the other rosters is our character and our depth. We have a roster full of guys that are not going to quit and are going to compete with each other to make each other better, that’s an edge we have on every other team in this league.”
Sharp played for the Saints between 2017 and 2018.
Grant Iles: Finding Comfort in Mountain Life
Grant Iles grew up in one of the world’s most renown resort communities where playing hockey was considered going against the grain. In Whistler, pursuit of outdoor activities overshadows Canada’s national pastime.
First-year forward Grant Iles is in the Heavy Mechanical Foundation Program based out of the Silver King Campus.
“You are the oddball in the town for sure,” says the scrappy first-year Saints forward. “Everybody skis, snowboards and mountain bikes, but I decided to choose hockey.”
Iles started his junior hockey career with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in the VIJHL and midway through his third season with the Courtney-based team, was traded to the Creston Valley Thunder Cats where he played for former Saints coach Jeff Dubois. After a successful final season that saw Iles fill a key leadership role with Creston while compiling 32 points and 92 penalty minutes, Saints coach Brent Heaven came calling.
“It was an easy decision to come to Selkirk College, it took me about five minutes. I didn’t really have any plans after junior hockey, so when the opportunity came to come it was a no-brainer.”
And getting to stay in the West Kootenay was part of the lure.
“I fell in love with the Kootenays. I love the small towns, the snow, the mountains and everybody is really relaxed and positive.”
When it came time to choose a program, Iles was drawn towards the trades-based Silver King Campus in Nelson where he decided on the Heavy Mechanical Foundation Program.
“I’m not a desk-job person and I wasn’t sure exactly what trade to take, but this one definitely feels right,” says Iles. “I like this program because it’s constantly challenging and there is something different about all the vehicles you work on. You are constantly learning.”
Iles graduated from high school in Whistler, but took a couple of years off to focus on hockey. Returning to the classroom required a new level of discipline for the 21-year-old.
“It was a bit of a shock at first, but I found my groove pretty quickly. Our instructor Andy [Gullen] is big help because he knows exactly what you need as an individual student.”
A proven leader on the ice with a team-first attitude, Iles sees his academic adventure at Selkirk College in a similar way.
“Selkirk College is great because you’re not in a classroom of 200 students. There is a lot of camaraderie with your classmates and your teacher. Everyone at Selkirk College is very nice and wants you to succeed, so that helps.”
Iles played for the Saints between 2017 and 2018.
Derek Georgopoulos: Okay With Navigating the Winding Road
Derek Georgopoulos didn’t have a whole lot of love for mathematics growing up. Even when he first enrolled in Selkirk College at the start of the 2015-2016 season, the Cranbrook native wasn’t thrilled when he added upgrading high school math to the School of University Arts & Sciences courses that opened his post-secondary academic career.
Derek Georgopoulos has been enjoying a great Fall Semester both on and off the ice.
“I struggled in math during high school with 30-plus people in my classes,” says Georgopoulos, who played junior hockey for the Fernie Ghostriders and Castlegar Rebels. “I came to Selkirk College and took the exact same class through the Upgrading Program and there were 12 students. I got one-on-one help with the teacher and didn’t feel awkward asking questions.”
Georgopoulos came to Selkirk College without much of an educational plan.
“I chose UAS because you can take a variety of different programs to figure out where you really gel and what you enjoy doing. It was a great tool for me to help me figure it out.”
Unexpectedly, after his first year of studies Georgopoulos started to head down a different pathway than originally expected. He started with an interest in becoming an athletic director, but the self-confessed computer game nerd is now thinking about pursuing a degree in Computer Science or IT. Both logic-based fields requiring the academic foundation that once filled him with dread.
“Selkirk College has been instrumental in my approach to math because my teachers have made it more interesting to learn,” he says. “Growing up I didn’t like math at all, but now I am more eager to learn it because it’s no longer boring to me.”
Now in his third year with the Saints and with one BCIHL championship under his belt from his rookie season, Georgopoulos has grown wiser. He offers some advice to those ready to enter post-secondary that may be in the same mindset he was three years ago.
“It’s okay to not know and to figure it out as you go. You don’t need to have a set plan, just take general courses and if your mind changes that’s okay. Just enjoy the ride.”
And Georgopoulos is happy he made the right choice.
“After my junior career I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Selkirk College provided a great option in a nice location with a great hockey team. One of the benefits of Selkirk College is that it’s affordable so you don’t have to go into extreme debt while you figure out what you want to do.”
Georgopoulos played for the Saints between 2015 and 2018.
Kadrian Klimchuk: Hockey as a Stress Reliever
The life of a student athlete can be intense. From competing hard on the ice to completing quality work in the classroom, it takes a commitment to be successful in both worlds.
Kadrian Klimchuk takes part in a Biology lab project on the Castlegar Campus.
Second-year Saints forward Kadrian Klimchuk knows the rigours. A student in the Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program, the 19-year-old is embracing post-secondary life at a brisk pace.
“Time management becomes absolutely critical when you are balancing school and hockey,” says the graduate of Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries Secondary. “I have a pretty intense course load, so I have to stay on top of things. Another part about being a Saint is taking part in community events and being a student ambassador, so there is a lot to juggle. If you create an organized schedule and keep on top of it, it’s do-able.”
Unlike his teammates, Klimchuk’s resume consists of very little junior hockey experience. Though he was a Junior B affiliate player at 16, the young scholar took a break from competitive hockey and played midget house in his Grade 12 year so he could focus on school. It was only in the second semester of the 2016-2017 season that he had the urge to once again compete at a high level.
“It’s a real good stress reliever from schoolwork to get your body going,” says Klimchuk, who has a goal of becoming a cardiologist. “If you are in a chair all day reading a book, that can be really difficult in so many ways. Getting out on the ice relieves a lot of that, it’s healthy and compliments my school work.”
Jack Mills: Teamwork On and Off the Ice
Amidst the clamour on Nelson’s Silver King Campus you will find several student athletes using the trades as a springboard to their future. Amongst the largest group of seven Selkirk College Saints to choose the campus as their educational launching pad is second-year forward Jack Mills who can be found in the Carpentry Foundation Program shop.
Carpentry Foundation Program student Jack Mills is now in his second year with the Selkirk College Saints where he is an important part of the team's offence.
“It’s nice to have more teammates on this campus, the guys on the team this year have a lot of different interests,” says Mills.
The feisty forward grew up in the Vancouver area and after high school graduation spent two years playing junior hockey with the Summerland Steam. Returning to class at Selkirk College last season took some adjustment.
“It was difficult to get back into learning at this level. You go from spending 13 years in school to taking a couple of years off… it certainly wasn’t easy. But once you get back into the rhythm, it’s not bad.”
Mills enrolled in the Academic Upgrading Program last season in an effort to get his focus back on school. One of the important keys to his success was the teamwork that played out off the ice.
“One of the really helpful parts is that we have guys on the team who can help with tutoring and guidance. Added to that is the great support you get from the school with counsellors and all the services available.”
Because education is a priority for the coaching staff, on Tuesdays the Saints get together for a study hall. Mills credits veteran players like Dallas Calvin and assistant coach Kyle Wheeler (who is a school teacher) with helping him with his academic confidence.
“It’s a little more challenging being a student athlete, but our coaches are keen on school first,” he says. “You don’t play unless you do well in school which helps you get your priorities straight.”
At this point, Mills is eyeing a post-hockey career as a firefighter. Helping him get there are the skills he is learning in the carpentry shop at the Silver King Campus.
“A trade is something you can always use. I’m not the kind of guy to sit in an office all day, so this is more of what I am interested in. Getting to come to class and build things is great. It’s always something different, it’s intriguing to learn every day.”
Mills played for the Saints between 2016 and 2018.
Patrick Zubick: Returning Home to Get a Start
After he graduated from Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries Secondary, Patrick Zubick packed his goalie gear for a Junior A hockey adventure east of the West Kootenay.
Patrick Zubick finished his junior hockey career by helping lead the Dryden Ice Dogs to a championship in 2017.
A standout with the KIJHL’s Castlegar Rebels for two seasons (2013 to 2015), Zubick left home after high school where he played a season in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Virden Oil Capitals and then finished with the Dryden Ice Dogs where he helped backstop his Superior International Junior Hockey League team to a championship in 2017.
“I decided to come back home to Selkirk College because of the combination of academics and athletics,” says the first-year Saints puckstopper. “It was a good chance to ease back into it through the School of University Arts & Sciences where I can figure out exactly where I want to go with school. It’s a big benefit to be back home, getting those home-cooked meals certainly doesn’t hurt.”
Zubick is focused on getting a general knowledge of the sciences at a post-secondary level with plans to transfer into a kinesiology program in the coming years.
“You have to take more ownership of your own learning at college and there is a high workload with the courses I am taking. We have a busy schedule, but I keep it regimented and time management is huge,” he says. “Selkirk College is a great bridge between high school and a big university. With the smaller class sizes, you have the chance to build relationships with your instructors.”
Having both post-secondary school and hockey available in the community he calls home is a great combination.
“I never envisioned that I would get to play at this level, let alone for my hometown team. It’s definitely a nice treat.”
Parker Wakaruk: Back in Action in the Classroom
After balancing major midget hockey and high school in Lethbridge, Selkirk College Saints’ rugged first-year defenceman Parker Wakaruk took a three year break from the books.
Saints defenceman Parker Wakaruk is a great example of a leader on the ice, having been named assistant captain in his first year at Selkirk College.
“You can’t get those years back, I looked at it as basically three free years to enjoy myself and have some fun just playing hockey,” says the 21-year-old who played Junior A with the Grande Praire Storm (AJHL) and Humboldt Broncos (SJHL).
Like many who graduate from junior hockey, Wakaruk had to adjust to returning to the classroom when he made the decision to play for Selkirk College.
“The change from just playing hockey to playing hockey and going to school is something that I have had to adapt to and it’s all about time management,” he says. “You have to be concerned about marks and assignments now, not just showing up to the rink and taking care of the hockey part. It’s more responsibility.”
Because he is unsure of what scholarly pathway to pursue, Wakaruk entered the Academic Upgrading Program where he is working on bolstering his high school marks and exploring his interests.
“The classes are small and it’s nice because you get the one-on-one help,” he says. “If you ever have a question, there is always a person to help you out and after three years away from school that’s very helpful. It’s a smaller school and everyone wants to help you succeed. You have your team and you have the instructors who are all here to make it a good experience.”
Dane Feeney: The Best of Both Worlds
Dane Feeney’s Selkirk College experience consists of two teams—the one where he pulls on his Saints jersey and the other where he laces up his work boots.
Dane Feeney is a third-year Selkirk College Saint and one of the assistant captains on this year's squad.
As a member of the Recreation, Fish & Wildlife (RFW) Program based out of the Castlegar Campus, Feeney is part of a cohort where field work is an essential part of the curriculum.
“It’s a tight-knit group because from the very start you are going out on field trips, sometimes that last for a few days,” Feeney says of his RFW classmates. “It’s a blast to work together and it doesn’t even seem like work when you are having fun.”
Feeney was recruited out of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Campbell River Storm and joined the 2015-2016 where he helped the Saints to their fourth straight BCIHL championship. When he was deciding on a program, Vancouver Island native was pleased to discover an academic area with an outdoor edge.
“I’ve been passionate about wildlife since I was a little kid, my dad had me out and about fishing and in the outdoors. When I saw that Selkirk College had this program, it really hit home with me and decided this was something was I could really wrap my head around.”
Now in his third year as a vital member of the Saints’ offense, Feeney has his eye on a future in fisheries side of the program. Until then, he is going to soak in the student athlete experience where he gets the best of two worlds.
“It’s awesome to be part of a college team where you get to play and stay active, plus you get to see lots of people from your classes in the crowd who come to support the team when we are at home,” he says.
“Getting to play hockey and get an education… honestly, it’s a dream come true for me.”
Feeney played for the Saints between 2015 and 2018.
Dallas Calvin: Leading the Way on the Ice and in the Classroom
When Dallas Calvin completed his junior hockey career with the Trail Smoke Eaters at the end of the 2014-2015 season, the gifted offensive talent didn’t need to look far for the ideal post-secondary start. A Trail-native, Calvin moved a half-hour up Highway 22 to join the Selkirk College Saints where he co-led the league in scoring during his rookie BCIHL campaign and helped his new team claim its fourth straight championship.
Dallas Calvin is the 2017-2018 Selkirk College Saints captain who has tremendous skills on the ice and in the classroom.
“It’s pretty cool to play close to home,” says Calvin, who earned the 2015-2016 BCIHL Rookie of the Year honours. “Every home game, I have family and friends coming out to watch. Even though I’m not living with my family, it’s great to be able to drive a half hour down the highway to see them.”
After a blistering start to the 2016-2017 season where he notched 20 points in 13 games, season-ending shoulder surgery dampened hopes for stellar sophomore campaign. Returning for a third season on the ice, Calvin was named the team captain for his leadership both on and off the ice.
A student in Business Administration Program, Calvin chose to stay close to continue to solidify his options both academically and athletically.
“Selkirk College can be a stepping stone to get back into school,” says Calvin, who took a two-year break from academics after graduating from high school. “You come, get a diploma and then you still have [athletic] eligibility to move on. It’s not the end of the line if you come here, everyone is helping to get you to where you want to go. No one is trying to make you stay here, if you want to move onto a higher level of hockey and education… there is help to get you there.”
Calvin played for the Saints between 2015 and 2018.