The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is getting a whole lot smarter.
Although the hockey product will always be the No. 1 priority for the league, the education of the players - both while they are in the league and when they move on in the future - is a growing concern.
That is where Garry Gawryliuk comes into the picture.
Gawryliuk is a retired high school teacher from Yorkton and for the past 15 years he has been working with players from both the Terriers and the Melville Millionaires to help them prepare for educational opportunities once they have finished playing in the SJHL.
Last year, after Bill Chow was brought in as league president, Gawryliuk had his responsibilities expanded when he became the educational consultant for the entire league.
“Last week when I was in Humboldt for the prospects game, the NCAA scouts were pretty impressed,” says Gawryliuk. “There is no other league that has hired an educational consultant. They kind of liked it when they needed information and we had it all there for them.”
What Gawryliuk has done is create a series of templates that the players fill out so if a scout does call, then the information is ready for dispersal. The templates fall into three categories: educational, hockey and vocational. The educational portfolio includes the player’s marks, study interests and possibly a reference letter from a teacher. The hockey portfolio lists all the player’s accomplishments on the ice including any awards won, statistics and a letter of reference from a coach. The vocational template is designed for players who are unsure of going the school route, but would like to continue playing hockey at some level.
“By filling out the portfolios, the players have to decide on what they want to do,” says Gawryliuk. “Judging from the success we had last year we are definitely on the right track.”
The educational and hockey information is obviously used by players wanting to attract a scholarship, whether it is to an American college, Canadian university or even a technical school. The vocational route is rather new, but one that is gaining some momentum as industries and professional trades are looking for workers with a hockey background so that they can represent their business at major tournaments in addition to providing an opportunity for employment.
“Places like the northern mines, or the RCMP, like junior hockey players because of their discipline, leadership and the team modelling concept,” says Gawryliuk.
“We are becoming a sounding board for agencies interested in that,” added Gawryliuk, who noted that Lee Bitternose of the RCMP has been one to inquire about the program.
While Gawryliuk does the footwork for the players to get started in determining their future career path, he says it is up to the players to be diligent in seeking out opportunities.
“To get a scholarship you have to sell yourself and sell yourself on paper,” says Gawryliuk. “We also encourage players to include video highlights (of themselves) to go with their packages and we tell players if the scouts don’t come knocking on your door, that is where they have to get to work and study what schools they would like to play for and also see which teams might need a player like them.”
Gawryliuk does try and visit most SJHL clubs, but when they come into Yorkton or Melville they can almost certainly expect a visit so as “to give them a face to the name.”
There is no age restriction for any player to select any route although generally it is the younger players that seek out the scholarships and the older players who consider the vocational program.
The SJHL has put a strong emphasis on education and with Gawryliuk taking control of the program, it is very evident that the league will be highly recruited and the players will have a greater chance for success in the future.