Western Hockey League Scholarship Program: a valuable post-career opportunity
© Copyright - 2016 - Victoria Sports News
Three graduating Victoria Royals players who finished their Major-Junior careers this season (2015-2016) are seeking an education in the North American university and college systems. They are Logan Fisher, Alex Forsberg and Coleman Vollrath. They are able to do this thanks to a comprehensive scholarship program offered by the Western Hockey League.
Vollrath, this spring and summer will continue to pursue professional hockey, however, sees school as a viable back-up plan. As the goalie that amassed the third best stats in the league and helped lead the Royals to first place in the WHL, he feels that playing professional is a career worth pursuing.
“My main goal is to play pro hockey but as mentioned, the WHL offers a great scholarship program. I value getting a degree, while continuing to develop as a goalie. In a solid league like the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), it would work to develop more there then turn pro,” shared Vollrath.
Each year approximately 600,000 young hockey players from all corners of Canada chase the dream of playing the national game at the highest possible level, whether the end goal is to compete in Major Junior, for example in the WHL, or beyond and into the professional ranks.
As organized as Major-Junior hockey is in preparing Canada’s youth to win, the league recognizes that not everyone gets the opportunity to turn pro.
Jamie Crooks, who played for the Victoria Royals from 2009-2010 to 2012-2013 (first two years as a Chilliwack Bruin, where the team originated), is now attending the University of Alberta. Originally from Vermillion, Alberta, he chose to be closer to home and compete in varsity for the Golden Bears.
As a left winger, Crooks could score goals. He amassed a total of 37 during the 2011-2012 campaign and 33 the year after that. In those two seasons he played 72 and 69 games, respectively.
The University of Alberta competes in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association as part of the nation-wide CIS. There are a total of eight teams in the west and 37 in the CIS. Crooks twice helped the Golden Bear when CIS titles.
North Battleford Saskatchewan’s Jordan Fransoo played six years in the WHL, three years with the Brandon Wheat Kings and three with the Royals, where he served as captain. The 22-year-old defenceman is currently attending the University of Saskatchewan and plays for the Huskies. The Royals have had several other players take advantage of the WHL Scholarship Program including goaltender Justin Paulic, former captain Tyler Stahl as well as Brandon Fushimi and Jesse Pauls, to name a few.
Each WHL club has an Education Advisor who tracks the academic progress of all players throughout their WHL career. When a player first signs on to play in the WHL, they sign a “Standard Player Agreement”. This agreement allows the player to receive financial assistance while they play, which is intended for education expenses for high school as well as post-secondary programs.
For every season a player is in the WHL, they receive a full year scholarship including tuition, textbooks and any other mandatory fees related to their education. Annually, the WHL awards over 400 scholarships to enable players to attend a post-secondary institution of their choice in North America. WHL clubs have provided nearly 5,000 scholarships valued at over $17 million since 1993.
Fisher shared, “I might take a business degree and as for the school I am not sure, I have looked at the Maritimes, Ontario and a couple of schools in Alberta. It would be nice after being away from home for four years, to go to school here, but I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
“When you look at what this actually means, you can see that it is really the most comprehensive and flexible education and scholarship program available for hockey players in North America today. The flexibility allows and encourages players to use the Scholarship, and each year the teams collectively pay out about $2 million dollars to alumni using it. We are really proud of this as a league,” Shared Cameron Hope, President and General Manager of the Royals.
Asked of which school he plans to attend, Forsberg said, “I have a couple of months to think about it, so I have time. It still hasn’t sunk in yet after having such a great season, that my WHL career is over, I will miss playing for the fans in Victoria.”
According to Hockey Canada, at any given time there are approximately 600,000 youth under the age of 18 playing some level of hockey. Major Junior, professional or university for many is often the ultimate goal. When professional hockey is not in the cards, the generous WHL Scholarship Program is a valuable alternative.
Read the full story on the three graduating Royals in the June issue of Your Magazine.