It is not often you can turn on your TV or a livestream three times a week and watch a SOM alumnus. For hockey fans and proud UAF alumni, you can tune in and catch Colton Parayko, professional hockey player for the St. Louis Blues, as he dominates on the ice just as much as he did in his SOM classes.
Hailing from St. Albert, Canada, Colton prefers life in a close-knit community. After an invite by Dallas Ferguson, UAF hockey coach at the time and fellow SOM alumnus, Colton toured Fairbanks, met his potential teammates, saw the numerous outdoor activities available, and knew he had found the school for him.
As with many freshmen, Colton wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do, but figured having a business degree would lay a foundation for a master’s degree and life after hockey. As he pursued his degree, he received the solid groundwork of a business curriculum. The skills developed in a business degree program are highly-transferrable. Colton felt he’d have more wiggle room to accommodate changes in his life plans and have a wider range of job options.
For now, Colton has no plans to change jobs. He has a full-time job as #55, defenseman for the St. Louis Blues NHL team. He is garnering attention as a pro hockey “cheechacko” and is referred to as the team’s secret weapon; he has also been named one of the NHL’s best players under 25 for 2017. Before becoming such a formidable force on the ice, Colton impressed in his UAF classes. He was recruited his senior year at UAF, and after joining the big leagues, he found time to finish his seven remaining SOM courses to complete his degree the summer of 2016.
“I think some of the things I learned at UAF are time management and organizational skills. While playing for the UAF Nanooks, we took five courses and played hockey, so I was used to managing a tough schedule. The online classes gave me the opportunity work at my own pace. As I started my rookie season in the pro league, it was nice to work on school because all you’re thinking about is hockey and basically just trying to do the best you can. When I got home from practice or games, it was nice to focus on something else beyond hockey.”
Even though the team plays 82 games a season, half of which are on the road, it’s not all about ice time. Players are expected to attend certain events and Colton makes time to volunteer for charities, such as Ronald McDonald House; he also donates hockey equipment to Sport Central, which provides gear to underprivileged youth. Recently, at the Ronald McDonald House, Colton participated in a program called Shopless Santa. Since families are spending most of their time at the hospital, a room of donated gifts is available so children can have Christmas gifts without their parents having to leave the hospital to shop. Through these acts of kindness, Colton gets to witness smiles on children whose parents say they haven’t smiled in months. Colton feels privileged to be viewed as a celebrity and to be in a position to give back to his community.
It’s been an adjustment as Colton has settled in St. Louis. He is getting used to a new city and making new friends on and off the ice. It’s been a life-changing experience as he begins “adulting,” and making a salary that most of us could never imagine. Colton feels the best strategy for staying grounded is to not change his spending habits or blow everything out of proportion.
Colton stays in touch with several of his UAF classmates through a video chat group. After battling through school courses together, going to practices together, and rooming together in dorms, Colton has found that you develop some serious bonds and make friendships for life.
When asked about advice for current students, Colton recommends staying focused. “Set aside study time and make sure to schedule the proper amount of time to prepare for each course. At the same time, enjoy the school experience and everything that living in Alaska has to offer.”
Please join Colton in staying connected to SOM, and give any way you can.