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Gaudreau keeps a promise to his mom and earns a communications degree from Boston College

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Johnny Gaudreau made a promise to himself.

But more importantly, he made the same commitment to his mother, Jane.

"It was a different year managing going to the rink, making sure you're putting in the work and taking care of what you need to on the ice - and then going home and having pages of homework to do," laughed Gaudreau, who was named the inaugural winner of the Daryl 'Doc' Seaman Award as the Flames' leading scorer this year on Monday.

Gaudreau tore it up at the Scotiabank Saddledome this season, pacing his team with 19 goals and 49 points.

Meanwhile, he was also putting in some late nights off the ice reading textbooks, writing papers, and immersing himself in the virtual campus life that Boston College has to offer.

The result, worth waiting for.

Johnny Hockey is officially a college graduate.

"My mom really wanted me to get my degree," Gaudreau said. "I was going into my third year and we both knew how difficult it was for players at that stage to make it happen.

"But, honestly? Speaking for a lot of hockey players - that's your priority.

"Before I went to BC, I really didn't think much about my major, or what I was going to do outside of hockey. That was my goal. But I realized pretty quickly as a freshman that hockey doesn't last forever, and I thought things like public speaking would help me in my hockey career, too.

"I started liking communications quite a bit and as I got older, I starting learning more about what the field had to offer, I thought it would be pretty cool."


Video: Highlights from Johnny Hockey's 2020-21 season


Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we all live.

Hockey players are no different. Aside from going to the rink for a game or a practice, and getting that brief bit of face-time with their teammates inside the bubble, there was plenty of downtime.

Especially on the road.

Gaudreau would lug around his laptop like any briefcase-toting, hard-working business traveller, and would log in his virtual lectures from the comfort of his hotel room, either before or after practice. He was even in the same Persuasive Communication class as St. Louis Blues forward Zach Sanford, who was a freshman at BC the year after Gaudreau left.

The back-to-school plan was a theme around the league, but especially here in Calgary. Flames defenceman Chris Tanev was also hitting the books, grinding away on a business degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he played one year before turning pro in 2010.

Gaudreau, meanwhile, hadn't been out of practice that long.

In 2014, he won the Hobey Baker Award as the country's top player - scorching the NCAA with a retina-searing, 80-point (36G, 44A) campaign, while at the same time chipping away at his education.

Still, the return-to-class took some getting used to.

"It was tough," Gaudreau laughed. "I hadn't picked up a book in like six years, so hopping back into that was like, 'Whoa, let's not go too fast. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here ...'

"There were a lot of late nights writing papers - and I would always take my time, making sure I did it properly didn't mess up things like the spelling and grammar.

"But, hey, I managed to get through it. It was difficult, at times, but it was important for me to get done, so it was definitely worth all the hard work.

"It's a big accomplishment."



Best of all? He knows how proud Mama Hockey is of this achievement.

"It's for her," Gaudreau said. "I remember when I started this. It was after my sophomore year. I started taking a few classes, and little did I know, but I was only two courses away.

"But then I turned pro and I kept pushing it off. But I made that promise to her, and to myself. This year was the perfect time to do it. I wouldn't have to worry about anymore - it was something we could all be proud of, and it would help set me up for the future, as well."

At 27, Gaudreau still has plenty of good years left on the ice.

But as everyone knows - as the years tick by - you can't help but plan for a life away from the rink, and into your 'twilight' years.

With a communications degree now firmly in his back pocket, a post-playing career in hockey broadcasting could be in the cards.

"Maybe!" Gaudreau said, enthusiastically. "That would be pretty cool. That might be something I try to get into one day."

For now, though, he's got a pretty good gig.

He enters the off-season feeling optimistic about his and the team's future. No. 13, himself, ended the year on a five-game point spree (1G, 9A), and was heavily involved in 14 (6G, 16A) of the final 16 games, overall, to overtake Elias Lindholm as the team's top striker.

That has him clamoring for October, already - especially with how Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk fit so seamlessly with him in the absence of Sean Monahan down the stretch.

But first, a busy off-season awaits.

"I think for me most of the guys - and we've never really had this - but (Head Coach) Darryl (Sutter) gave us a set start date for training, and mine is June 14," Gaudreau said. "Normally I'd go home and take a couple weeks off, and figure out the best idea based on how the body is feeling.

"This year is a little different. I've got a few more weeks here, but I'll enjoy the time off and then get to it.

"We've also got our wedding coming up on Sept. 4, so there's a lot to look forward to right now. With all the restrictions up in Canada, we were hoping it wouldn't be like that in the States - and looking at it as we got deeper into the year, we thought it might be a bit better down here. We could get a bigger wedding, after all.

"My fiancée (Meredith) has a few wedding showers coming up and she's really excited about that. Before you know it, the big day will be here.

"Big summer.

"Big, big summer."

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