IRVINE, Calif. -- When Devin Shore signed his entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars less than 24 hours after his season ended with the University of Maine in the spring of 2015, there were feelings of excitement and joy. Years of hard work finally paid off with a professional hockey contract in his hands. But achieving one personal goal also meant putting one aside for the time being - a college degree.
Shore was a junior at the time he inked his deal. He finished his college hockey career with 104 points (34g/70a) in 112 games and was named a Second Team All-American and to the Hockey East First Team following his sophomore campaign in 2013-14. Education has always been important to him, instilled at a young age from his parents. Over the years, Shore chipped away. A class here. A class there. Whenever he had some time, usually during the offseason, he'd hit the books. Little by little, he inched closer.
Last week, seven years after first stepping foot on the campus of the University of Maine as a bright-eyed freshman, Shore had another important piece of paper in his grasp - his college diploma.
"It was a good feeling," said the 25-year-old with a smile, reflecting on the experience after a recent Ducks practice. "Growing up, school was always very important to me and my family. My parents [Kyle and Andrea] did a good job instilling the importance of education on me and my brother [Darin]. When I went off to university, it's obviously a dream come true to sign a professional contract. Your first goal is to put a lot of focus on hockey, so I signed it. But, it's important to finish what I started."
Shore says he didn't let hockey take over his life in Orono, Maine. It was important, yes, but so was his education. "I did a lot of hard work in the three years I was there," he said. "In my opinion, it would be unfortunate to see it go to waste. During my free time, and in my offseasons and whatnot, I was able to chip away at it. Feels good to get it done."
He chose the college route with hockey in mind. "Education was important, but I chose that route strictly for hockey reasons," he said. "I was a late bloomer physically. I didn't expect nor did I think I was going to get drafted. I thought my best bet at becoming a pro was to put on some muscle and extend the window a little bit. There are guys that are ready right away. If you play junior, the window to be a pro is kind of like 18-20, whereas in college you can delay it anywhere from 21-24. I felt I needed that time to put on some weight in the gym and mature physically."
Lo and behold, the Stars selected him in the second round (61st overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. He had just finished a season with the Whitby Fury of the Ontario Junior A Hockey League (OJHL). "The way things worked out, I was fortunate," Shore said. "I was drafted out of Tier 2 junior. I signed after three years, which is something I didn't expect going into it, but it was nice to have that option to develop a little extra."
An unfortunate shoulder injury in his first full season with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League put him on the shelf for months. Knowing he wouldn't be on the ice any time soon, Shore used that time to knock out a few courses. "I had shoulder surgery when I was in the minors in December of that season, so that spring semester I took on a class because I was out for the year with the surgery," he said. "I tried to find ways to get it done."
During his collegiate career, Shore says he used summers to ease the burden during the busier times.
"As a hockey team, we were strongly encouraged to take classes in the summer even when we were at school just to make the load lighter during the season," he said. "It's a huge commitment with travel, workouts and everything. After I left after three years, I think I had eight or nine classes left to go. I'd do maybe two in the summer. I finished the last two classes at the end of August this year."
Shore is also thinking big picture.
"There's a sense of pride, but hockey isn't going to last forever," he said. "Whatever my next job is going to be, it would be awesome to stay in the game in some way, but who knows. Just to have that in your back pocket, hopefully it'll afford me some extra opportunities down the road."