These Devils have class
By David Sorensen
Brandon Verge minds the net. (Photo by Mike Mahoney, The Express)
Despite being one step away from professional hockey, players on St. John’s new junior hockey team have school on their mind.
Several members of the St. John’s Fog Devils are taking courses at Memorial this fall.
Team captain and Newfoundland native Scott Brophy has played junior hockey for the past three years. But coming home to play in St. John’s, and attend Memorial University, amounts to a perfect situation at this point in his life.
“I was looking forward to going to MUN and so to be able to play at this level of hockey and still go to MUN, it’s pretty sweet for me,” said the 20-year-old.
Brandon Verge is from Fall River, N.S. and playing his fourth year of junior hockey, a career that has taken him from Sherbrooke to Lewiston, Maine, to Chicoutimi and now St. John’s. The first time he travelled to Newfoundland was for the Fog Devils training camp. He said Memorial’s reputation preceded his move to St. John’s, and he’s taking advantage of the proximity of the campus to the team’s home at Mile One Stadium.
“Obviously, I need to get my education. It was natural move to go the university here,” he said, having heard about Memorial from friends in Nova Scotia who attend. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.”
Mr. Verge said he was pleased with a B mark he received in a recent French test, however he was not so happy about a test he did in sociology the previous week.
All of the young men interviewed by the Gazette stressed that a university education was as important as hockey practice.
“It’s a game of numbers in hockey. Not all of us are going to make it,” said Mr. Brophy. “Everyone needs a backup plan and school is definitely going to be a big option for me after I’m said and done with hockey.”
“My ideal situation would be to try and play pro hockey, and go to school after,” said Zack Firlotte, a 19-year-old from Minto, N.B. “But if that doesn’t work out then university is a definitely a priority.”
Zack Firlotte. (Photo courtesy of the Fog Devils.)
All three are taking two courses. Mr. Brophy is taking a Business correspondence course and English course. Mr. Verge is taking Sociology and French while Mr. Firlotte is studying first year English and French. They all stressed that they have an easier time than students taking five courses, but full-time hockey schedule the Fog Devils play 70 games this season; 35 on the road provides its own challenges.
“It’s kind of hard to catch up in different places; I’ve got some things to make up,” said Mr. Brophy. “Something like English, where you have to be in class, it’s kind of hard to do.”
His correspondence course has been an easier fit. “I do it on the Web so it’s something that I can do at my own pace and keep up with it when I can.”
Mr. Brophy also had high marks for the distance education Web interface. “I haven’t had a hitch.”
Combining hockey with study provides little room for socializing, said Mr. Verge. “If I’m not on the ice, or in the classroom, I’m probably in bed trying to get some rest. We’re always going. There’s never a day off.”
Mr. Firlotte said his teammates try and be supportive, but when you have a group of 18, 19 and 20-year-olds travelling by bus, it’s not an atmosphere built for studying.
“They don’t mean to make it difficult, but sometimes it gets pretty exciting on the bus when we’re travelling so you’ve just got to concentrate a little bit more.”
All have high praise for their professors, who have recognized their situation and provided some leeway.
“We’ve missed a fair amount of classes because of hockey,” explained Mr. Verge. “I’m always trying to talk to my professors about what I’m going to miss and can I get the notes.
“They’ve been very helpful.”
All three expect to return to MUN in the winter semester.