|Princeton University forward Landis Stankievech is the first Canadian in NCAA history to win a Rhodes scholarship, one of only 90 to receive the honor.
Perhaps you haven’t heard of Princeton's Mike Spence ('65), Harvard's David Johnson ('74), and Yale's Gary Lawrence ('80). But these three form one of college hockey's most elite trios.
And now, you can add Princeton forward Landis Stankievech to the list.
Before we clear up the mystery for their elite status, some facts.
First, consider that only about 35 hockey players born in any one year in North America will make it to the NHL.
Second, that some 99.9 percent of all elite youth-hockey players will not make the big stage in their careers.
"Yes," said Stankievech, when presented with those stats, "I think the odds are even greater to be named a Rhodes scholar."
Meet college hockey's Hobey Baker of the classroom, poster boy of the NCAA's "student-athlete" campaign, MVP of academia. The Princeton senior has become just the fourth NCAA player in hockey history to receive the most prestigious scholarship in the world. He’s also the first Canadian in NCAA history to be named a Rhodes scholar.
Approximately 90 Rhodes scholarships are awarded each year by the Rhodes foundation. Rhodes scholar recipients study at Oxford University in England for one to two years. The Rhodes Trust was established in 1902, through the will of Cecil John Rhodes.
In addition to strong academic credentials, students eligible to apply also have a fondness for sports, or success in sports, strong moral character, devotion to duty, interest in one's fellow citizens and desire to lead. Different countries receive a yearly allocation for the number of Rhodes scholarships -- Canada has 11.
"All of Princeton athletes epitomize what a ‘student-athlete’ is," said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky, whose team cracked the Top 20 ranking last week and is nipping at the heels of ECAC frontrunner Clarkson. "However, Landis is committed to be the absolute best at both. He is an amazing man and a great example for anyone committed to more than one priority.
"Landis is our top forward on the penalty kill," said Gadowsky. "He plays against other team's top lines, is one of our top faceoff guys, and somehow always manages to score a big goal or make a great play in the most important moments."
The Trochu, Alberta, native took a few moments from his intense schedule to discuss his historic accomplishment in Canadian hockey history with NHL.com.
Which came first, your interest in hockey or the academics?
"My parents started to take me skating when I was around 3-years-old. I remember my grandma asking me math problems when I was about 4-years-old. I'd sit with her in her kitchen while she did chores and she'd ask me simple addition and subtraction problems for the fun of it, I guess. So hockey came slightly before academics."
How did Princeton come to be your choice for undergraduate studies?
"When I was playing junior hockey for the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. I knew that Princeton had a strong reputation as one of the best universities in the world and could provide me with an opportunity to play hockey and pursue my studies at a high level. I went on an official recruiting visit and I fell in love with the place. After that visit my decision was easy."
When and how did the Rhodes scholarship come onto your radar screen as a possible achievement?
"When I was a sophomore, one of my older teammates suggested that I apply in my senior year. I kept that in mind, and in my junior year I looked into the scholarship. I was excited by the opportunities to study in Oxford that the scholarship presented. I also felt that I fit the criteria for the scholarship, which included academics, sports, and compassion for others, and so I decided to apply."
Take us through the application/nomination process.
"I had to complete a paper application, which included a personal essay and six letters of recommendation. The Alberta Rhodes Committee narrowed the pool of candidates down to 10 from all of the applications they received. I flew back to Edmonton for a reception with the other candidates, and then an individual interview with the Committee. The interview was 30 minutes long, and there were six interviewers. They asked me a variety of questions, ranging from personal interest questions to political and ethical questions. After the interviews in Edmonton, three Albertans were selected to go on to the final round for the Western Region (which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) in Winnipeg. It was a similar process, with a reception and then an interview. After this process, three scholarship recipients were selected."
|"All of our Princeton athletes epitomize what a student-athlete is. However, Landis is committed to be the absolute best at both." -- Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky on Landis Stankievech
How do you feel about such an honor?
"There have been Canadian hockey players that have won, but most of them played their college hockey in Canada. Growing up in Alberta and playing in the Trochu and Red Deer minor hockey systems, I was always able to balance hockey and academics. Princeton didn't force me to sacrifice either one of those dreams for the sake of the other, and that put me in position to be a good candidate for this award."
Which is the case at the college level? Hockey makes you a better student or the academics make you a better player?
"While athletes obviously have less time for studying or homework, and sometimes have to miss class for road trips and competitions, on the whole I think that the pursuit of both activities can teach a person a lot of valuable skills."
Most of your teammates also epitomize the definition of "student-athlete," but a Rhodes scholar recipient is over the top. How do you think they think about playing with a Rhodes scholar?
"Nothing really changed from the time before I won to the time after, so I don't think that their attitude toward me changed. They probably just use the scholarship as more ammunition to make fun of me in the locker room. On the team, I'm just one of the guys, just like everybody else."
What becomes of your hockey career after this season?
"I'm not exactly sure. There is a team at Oxford, but the level of competition will not be nearly as high as NCAA Division I hockey. I've thought about exploring the professional hockey scene in England, but I don't think that I would be able to balance it with my studies. Right now, I think that my hockey career will probably have to be put on hold for the two years in England. At the end of that time, I'll re-evaluate where I'm at and go from there."
What is your career goal or next academic degree after the two years at Oxford?
"I'm looking at either law school or getting a Ph.D. in Economics. The bottom line is that I want to use my opportunities and my skills to make a difference in areas that are important to me. I want to help come up with solutions to problems in our society that require an understanding of engineering and technology, as well as political and economic systems; problems like global warming are complex, and there are no easy answers. I just want to prepare myself in the best manner possible to attack these problems."
What activities occupy your seemingly limited leisure time?
"I love to read, talk to my family and friends, and hang out with my teammates. Being part of a sports team at university is a great experience; it creates a lot of great friendships and provides you with a second family. Right now ping-pong is big on our team. We just got a new table. Unfortunately, I'm probably the worst player. I did win one of our poker games last week, however."
On Campus Clips -- The 2008 Commissioners' Cup winner is the WCHA with a final record of 8-1-1; the award is given to the league with the best record in 10 designated out-of-conference games through January. ... The Hockey Humanitarian Award finalists for college hockey's finest citizen include the following: Ryan Adler, Hobart College; William Bruce, Williams College; Ethan Cox, Colgate University; Jeff DeFrancesca, University of Wisconsin-Stout; Missy Elumba, Northeastern University; Jody Heywood, Ohio State University; Ashley King, Wayne State University; and Caralyn Quan, Williams College. The 13th recipient of the Humanitarian Award will be named in conjunction with the Hobey Baker Memorial Award on Friday, April 11, at the Pepsi Center in Denver during the 2008 NCAA Frozen Four. ... The Beanpot final on Monday pits Boston College against Harvard. BC took out Boston University, 4-3, in OT last Monday night; Nathan Gerbe had both the tying and winning goals. Harvard, led by captain Mike Taylor's goal and assist, ousted Northeastern 3-1 to also advance to the championship game.
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