Education advisor Tom McEvay congratulates two Alberni Valley Bulldogs on their high academic achievements for the 2015-16 season: Quinn Syrydiuk, left, for college and Cayden Kraus for high school. (KAICEE TROTT PHOTO)

Education advisor Tom McEvay congratulates two Alberni Valley Bulldogs on their high academic achievements for the 2015-16 season: Quinn Syrydiuk, left, for college and Cayden Kraus for high school. (KAICEE TROTT PHOTO)

Retired Vancouver Island principal keeps hockey players learning

BCHL: Port Alberni’s Tom McEvay now schools players for three teams, including Alberni and Nanaimo

The Coquitlam Express have named Tom McEvay of Port Alberni as their education advisor.

McEvay is now education advisor for three B.C. Hockey League teams: the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Nanaimo Clippers and the Express.

McEvay is a retired school principal in Port Alberni and has been an educator for more than 40 years. Over 45 years ago he was a young junior hockey player in Victoria who went on to university on a hockey scholarship and pursued his dreams.

“I know that my own experiences as a player who combined education and hockey and my many years as an educator give me the unique opportunity to help junior players with their educational planning,” McEvay said.

“I now work with players, families and hockey organizations all over North America as a consultant in the area of education and sport.”

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”It’s a way of combining the passion that I have (for education) with some things that will help other young people.”

McEvay’s job, he says, is to prepare players for life after hockey, whatever that looks like for them. He has clients all over North America, from Ontario and Quebec to New York and California.

Thanks to COVID-19 a lot of the work he has been doing with the three BCHL teams has been virtual, but he hopes to be able to work with the Express in person as soon as some of the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

McEvay said Tali Campbell, who is now vice-president and general manager with Coquitlam Express, is the one who hired him as the Nanaimo Clippers’ education advisor as well.

“I have had the pleasure now of working with Tom for four years, I have seen the impact he makes on a program with assisting players with their education needs.” Campbell said. “Juggling education, hockey, personal life and trying to make the right decision for players is very tough, so when Tom is around it allows parents and players to be at ease as he makes sure they are set to move to the next level.”

McEvay said working with Campbell, the young GM has seen the value first hand of having an education advisor work with a junior hockey team. McEvay said when he agreed to join the Clippers two and a half years ago that he would set up the infrastructure in the hopes that someone else will come in and take over. “We’ve been able to investigate, enquire, etc., and now we have a tutor and we have a SAT prep program (in Nanaimo),” he said.

“Tali has been an impetus behind some of these things because he sees the value.”

McEvay’s role with the Coquitlam Express will be similiar to that in Nanaimo: he will help establish the role of education advisor in the hopes someone will come in from the community in two or three years and take over—not hold the position off the side of one’s desk.

He is also working with Paul Carson, recently retired as vice-president in charge of hockey development for Hockey Canada. There are 160 junior or major junior teams in Canada but there is no education advisor overseeing all the teams. McEvay said he and Carson are trying to build a broader picture of what teams are offering players.

“It’s consistent to what I’m trying to do; raising the bar across the country. Many teams have education advisors in name, but when you research what they’re doing…it’s only a small percentage of what can be done.”

McEvay works with players and their families to prepare them for college hockey—because a scholarship to a Canadian or American college or university is often all a junior hockey player will achieve. Precious few of the hundreds of junior hockey players with teams right now will be able to make a paying career out of their hockey skills, and that’s OK, says McEvay. He teaches them how to study for the SAT exam that will enable them to qualify for an NCAA team, and he also teaches them about being a productive member of their community.

“Just as they embark on their careers they need to be prepared for when it’s over,” he said.

“You can control how educated you get, how widely read you are, what type of experiences you’ve had in the workplace.”

McEvay has helped hundreds of young athletes get to the next level in both their career and their life.

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