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The means to achieving a brighter future, the coming of age, an escape. The college experience is what an individual makes of it. But it is, at all times, precisely that: an experience.
While it’s a little unfair to totally discount his desire to discover himself and the world around him as a 13-year-old with a growing obsession with hockey, surely Tyler Seguin wasn’t looking too far beyond what the experience might hold when he decided the Michigan Wolverines hockey program was the ultimate for him.
For Seguin, that light bulb switched on while attending a hockey camp run by legendary former Michigan coach Red Berenson. Sold in this impressionable moment, the camper sought counsel from others who charted the route back to Michigan before him, and he left Ann Arbor with a plan on how to get back.
“I just thought this was my calling,” Seguin explained. “I felt like I had a place there; this was going to be my path.”
The first step in the trek back was enrolment at Toronto’s St. Michael’s College School, a hockey history-rich private institution and feeder system for the OHJL’s St. Michael’s Buzzers. He would rise under the expert tutelage at a program that boasts nearly 200 NHL alumni, star at the Jr. A level, and before long it would be off to Ann Arbor, where the chance to wear the maize and blue – and his destiny – awaited.
Nothing was going to deter Seguin in pursuit of this dream. Not the 90-minute commute from the suburbs every morning on multiple methods of transportation. Not the dress shirt and tie that needed to be straightened out upon arrival. Not the fact that this was an all-boys institution.
(You can take a wild stab of which was the biggest nuisance).
But beyond that, the most significant adjustment, according to Seguin, was the ultra-competitive environment he found himself in when he first walked onto the campus at St. Mikes.
“Before (that) school was school, and now, school was hockey as well,” he explained. “Everyone here has the dream of being a hockey player. Some come for academics, because it’s a pretty tough school, but most of the guys want to be pro hockey players – and always competing no matter what you were doing.”
Of course, this environment raised Seguin’s level. With a blinded focus, he was making inroads in the journey back to Ann Arbor, managing to juggle the demands of high school hockey, his Triple-A team in the Greater Toronto Hockey League and the higher standard of academics at school.
He was well on his way. Until one day that path was diverted.
In a last-second decision, Seguin and his family decided that the Ontario Hockey League – and an opportunity down the road from Ann Arbor with the Plymouth Whalers – was the right course for him. With that, the Michigan dream was forever dashed.
It was the correct route, of course, for a talented kid evolving into a can’t-miss NHL prospect. Surely that decision was validated when he was chosen second overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2010 NHL Draft. And chances are he didn’t feel he was missing out when he won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins at the end of what would have been his freshman year.
In any case, while Seguin didn’t ever get the college experience, he is without question a proud alumnus. However he doesn’t show it by wiring a portion of his NHL salary into the endowment at St. Michael’s College School. Instead, he gives back to the school that helped launch his career by bringing his reality back to it each and every summer.
The Dallas Stars forward recently helped out another BioSteel camp inside the old barn on the campus at St. Mikes. The intense week-long training camp has become a highly-anticipated bridge between summer fun and obligations at the NHL level for some of the best hockey players to come out of the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
And for the students at St. Michael’s College School, and kids in the surrounding area in midtown Toronto, it’s an opportunity to see their hockey heroes – like Seguin, Connor McDavid, Wayne Simmonds and Darnell Nurse – up close.
“Any time I see kids out in the parking lot I always get a good chuckle. That was me a decade ago. It’s definitely humbling coming back here.
“Always feels good.”
Something of a modernized spin on the tradition of giving back to the program, but Seguin’s contribution is certainly no less significant.
“When I look back on when I was that age, I think it would have blown my mind if I saw NHL guys hanging around.”
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