Why this NHL draft pick left the game to become a doctor

Kevin Koopman - hockey
Kevin Koopman grew up in Hope, B.C. and was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2006 NHL draft.

In a past life, I was a hockey player who was fortunate to play at a highly competitive level. I constantly look back at the “glory days” and thank my parents for helping me become the best player I could be. However, I grew up in a time when gas prices roamed 30 cents a litre, $250 one piece sticks were non-existent, and travelling teams rarely ventured out of British Columbia. Reflecting on where hockey has evolved to since then leaves me baffled: gas prices soaring past the $1 per litre range, $800 for new skates (which you’ll likely outgrow in 2 years), $250 for a new stick (which has 30 days of warranty, but usually follows Murphy’s Law and breaks on day 31), and numerous international flights per year for elite tournaments. Under these circumstances, it would have been tough for my parents to finance my expensive hobby while also saving up for my post-secondary education. Luckily, things were a little more manageable back then.

Believe it or not, my goal of becoming a healthcare professional always came before my hockey dreams.  Hockey (or any sport for that matter) has a unique constant that always manages to change people’s lives: unpredictability. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the prodigy who was so close to making it to the big leagues but ended up tearing his ACL. The prospect who separated his shoulder in his first training camp and never recovered. Or the sniper who has had one too many concussions and can no longer remember his own name. Sadly, these are all outcomes I have witnessed firsthand. It’s that kind of unpredictability that leads to many athletes developing a love-hate relationship with their sport.

Since my parents had opened a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) with CST Consultants when I was young, I was never forced to choose between academics or hockey. Despite being an NHL draft pick and top recruit to an Ivy League school, I chose to pursue my dream and the road which my parents had paved ever so beautifully for me – my dream of becoming a doctor. I cannot imagine flipping the scenario and relying solely on hockey for the future of my financial security. The odds of making it to the NHL are slim, so if it’s the ludicrous lifestyle you want for your children, place your life savings on red in Vegas – your chances of striking it big are much higher if you go that route.

In today’s competitive job market, I believe we have entered a phase where more emphasis is placed on opportunities and accolades in the academic realm. College tuition is rising, job fields are saturated, GPA is considered more important than it ever was, and individuals are completing their B.Sc, MS, PhD, MD, and the likes just to land some financial security and establish themselves. In my opinion, the future still relies on education whether we like it or not, and being able to finance it is no easy task.

My advice to parents is to invest in their education to provide them with a stable, predictable future. It may sound boring, but it will pay off in the long run. Allow your kids to remain active, but remember to instill the importance of an education from an early age. Learning is their ticket to stardom – not necessarily sports like hockey. Some parents may counter that argument by saying that hockey can sometimes provide a free education, which is true, but other less-expensive sports like lacrosse, soccer, golf, tennis, football, swimming, basketball, and track and field also provide those opportunities. It’s all about finding a healthy balance and not putting all your eggs in one basket.

And if you can’t afford to keep your child in competitive sports? Well, then maybe you should be rethinking where you put your money and contributing to an RESP instead.

This blog post was written by Kevin Koopman, a former NHL player and one of CST’s 2014 Graduate Award recipients. – 

Why this NHL draft pick left the game to become a doctor

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