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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”