What happens next? What happens once hockey ends? That’s Dave Tennant’s job to help these young men figure out.
For many Junior hockey players, the ultimate goal is to make it to the “show,” but that might not be a reality for some. Even if it is, having access to a good education off the ice is just as important as the work on the ice. Many years ago, this wasn’t necessarily the case.
“The focus has always been there, but over time school has become a top priority for many athletes and their families,” said Kitchener Rangers Academic Advisor, Dave Tennant. “You can see how education and the OHL have grown together. We want to make sure that school may not necessarily be plan B, but it is on a level playing field with plan A. School should always be an option.”
Making your presence known on the ice will always be a priority of any player, but having the drive and passion to make your presence known in the classroom is an accomplishment in itself.
The Rangers make it a priority to ensure the high school and post-secondary students make their schooling a priority. With a schedule filled with practices, workouts, and meetings, it is a team effort to make sure this happens. Dave’s goal is to make sure that when players leave East Ave. they have the skills they need to succeed in life, not just in hockey.
“I want to make sure no doors are closed. When they are done playing for the Rangers, and if the pro door is shut that doesn’t mean your hockey career is necessarily over. My Dad always had that vision, and I try to carry that on today.”
Dave’s father, Ivan Tennant, was a long-time Rangers education consultant. Ivan began his work with the team back in the 60s as he saw there was a need within the league for a change. As one of the first academic advisors in the league, Ivan was paving the way for future players.
On May 4th, 2004, Ivan passed away, leaving a space for Dave to carry on his legacy.
“Before my Dad passed, I could tell he was getting tired. I was planning on talking to him that summer about the possibility of me applying for his role, unfortunately, I never got that chance,” said Dave. “I talked to my Mom in July of that year and asked what my Dad would think about me applying for the job. She said Dad would love that, told me to apply and see what happens. Luckily, I was offered the job, and here we are.”
Dave’s job doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges, but the satisfaction of seeing these young men succeed makes it all worth it.
“Dan Lebold and I always describe ourselves as firefighters,” laughed Dave. “If an issue comes up, we fight the fire and fix it as best as we can. The challenges are different every year, and every kid is unique in their own way and can present different challenges.”
This past April, Dave was invited to the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship as Team Canada’s Education Consultant in Sweden and Finland. Defenceman, Michael Vukojevic was among the Team Canada roster as well.
“Being able to go with Vuks and to see his reaction to the whole environment was so cool,” smiled Dave. “Thomas Harley and Ryan Suzuki both wrote exams while at the tournament, my hat’s off to them. Every single member of Team Canada was focused and knew the importance of not falling behind in school while they were away. Hockey Canada made sure that these kids know that there is more to life than just hockey.”
For Dave, it’s not about getting the credit. As the team’s academic advisor, it is his job to provide the tools these young men need to succeed. After that, it’s up to them.
“I can lead the horse to the water, but I can’t make them drink. I take pride in the kids that take advantage of our help, but in the end, they have to put in the work if they want to succeed,” said Dave. “I think one of the coolest things is 10 years down the road you hear about someone doing something other than hockey. You can see their lives have taken off. They build on everything they learned, which lead them to something else.”
It is difficult for Dave to pinpoint one moment that he is proud of from over the years, but this past June was one to remember for him.
“In June, I was able to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame and present the top high school academic player of the year award that is named after my Dad. It was an absolute honour. All my Dad ever wanted was to guide all these players to a place where they can succeed in life, not just in hockey. Do your best in school, on the ice, and in life. It will all come together.”