It’s not a word that’s often associated with professional athletes. In an age where fans have become desensitized to the depraved off-ice/court/field antics of our sports heroes, I think it’s important to point out that they don’t all do stupid things all the time. In fact, some of them are more intelligent than both you and me. (Or is it both you and I? No, you and me. I think.)
NHL hockey players aren’t maligned in the media for their off-ice antics as often as the athletes of the other big-four sports are, although there are exceptions to this rule—I’m looking at you, Jarret Stoll. Still, hockey players are often accused of being a little slow, possibly because in interviews the players come off as dim-witted tools on a good day, or bumbling idiots on a bad one.
Today, I pay respect to the smart ones. The guys who shirked the CHL in order to hone their hockey skills at a post-secondary institution while earning a university education in the process. Most of the players appearing on this list have completed a degree at an Ivy League institution, which is pretty impressive.
In order to qualify for the list, players had to have played at least one game in the NHL last season (2014-15), or have formerly played in the NHL but are currently toiling in the AHL.
Here are the 15 smartest players currently in (or at least sort of in) the NHL.
15 Shawn Horcoff
The veteran center is the only guy on our list without an Ivy League education on his resume, but he’s no slouch. The journeyman of 949 NHL games spent his college days at Michigan State University where he studied finance and mathematics. He completed his degree before beginning his pro career with the Oilers, earning a Hobey Baker Award nomination in his senior year.
If there was ever any doubt of his intelligence, just look how much money he made on his last contract; you’d have to be a genius to help negotiate that.
14 Darrol Powe
The Saskatchewan native has only played one game in the NHL over the past two seasons, but the Princeton graduate has a degree in sociology he can perhaps fall back on if this whole hockey thing doesn’t work out.
However, with 329 games under his belt already, it’s safe to say it’s already worked out for the undrafted forward, regardless of what happens moving forward. Powe is currently playing in the Philadelphia Flyers system.
13 Bradley Mills
Sure, Bradley Mills is a journeyman AHLer—in fact, he’s played in just 34 NHL games since turning pro in 2006-07. However, as the 32-year-old continues to fight it out for the Birmingham Senators, he has a degree in political science from Yale University to fall back on, and that must be a comfort.
Mills went undrafted throughout college, and the first pro team to give the depth forward a shot was the New Jersey Devils. After toiling in their farm system for four seasons, he finally got his first cup of coffee in the big league in 2010-11.
12 Lee Stempniak
A common problem for athletes these days is that they run out of money only a few years after retirement. Most aren’t educated in the world of finance, and therefore don’t have the mind to properly invest their income.
This likely won’t be a problem for Lee Stempniak, who graduated from Ivy League school Dartmouth with a degree in economics. While playing for the Big Green, Stempniak served as team captain and notched 43 points in his senior year, which was most on the team.
11 Ben Scrivens
They don’t call him “The Professor” for nothing. Actually, he’s not an educator of the highest rank, so the nickname never really made sense. Nonetheless, Scrivens is the well-educated goaltender in the NHL, earning a degree in hotel management from Cornell, an Ivy League institution.
Sure, hotel management isn’t the most academic degree you can get, but the fact that he earned his degree all the while garnering a Hobey Baker nomination in his senior year is enough to get Scrivey on the list. He is also a vocal supporter of mental health awareness, which really sets him apart from the rest. Oh, and he tends to use big words in interviews.
10 Biega Brothers
Three brothers playing for the same hockey team at any points in their careers is rare; three brothers playing for the same Ivy League team at the same time is like getting attacked by a shark and struck by lightning at the same time. (Okay, I exaggerated. But still.)
In 2009-10, the three Biega brothers from Montreal (Michael, Alex, and Danny) all skated for the Harvard Crimson, becoming just the second trio of brothers to do so in the school’s history. Danny, the youngest, made his NHL debut this season with the Hurricanes, whereas middle brother Alex suited up for the Canucks.
9 Aaron Volpatti
It’s surprising how many guys on this list are tough guys and agitators; you’d think a profession that consists of getting punched in the head repeatedly would be pursued by only dunces. Alas, Aaron Volpatti is the first pure agitator to make the list, coming in at number nine.
Volpatti attended Brown from 2006-2010, breaking out in his senior year by notching 17 goals to go with his 115 PIM—leading the team in both categories. Volpatti majored in human biology during his tenure at the Ivy League institution.
8 Tanner Glass
Yet another Ivy League graduate on our list is Tanner Glass, coming in at number seven. The Craven, Saskatchewan native was drafted in the ninth round by the Florida Panthers in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and played a full four seasons at Dartmouth College. He graduated with a degree in history from the Ivy League school.
During his senior year, Glass served as team captain of the Dartmouth Big Green, and has since played in 441 NHL games for five different teams—not bad for a 265th overall pick.
7 Dominic Moore
Dominic Moore is the only of the three Moore brothers left in the NHL today. In the 1999-00 season, Moore, along with brothers Steve and Mark, became the first trio of brothers to play for the Harvard Crimson during the same season. Mark, the eldest, never played a game in the NHL, and middle brother Steve was on the receiving end of that infamous Todd Bertuzzi blindside attack.
Dominic led the Crimson to two NCAA titles in his last two seasons at Harvard, and he did so while maintaining a satisfactory GPA and successfully graduating from the Cambridge, Massachusetts Ivy League school.
6 Craig Adams
Craig Adams was the last selection by the Hartford Whalers in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, 223rd overall, making him the last pick the franchise made before relocating to Raleigh. Since then, Adams has graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history (1999), won two Stanley Cups (2006 and 2009), and has played in almost 1,000 regular season games (951).
It’s safe to say the veteran has lost a step or two over the years, but the 38-year-old had a much longer career than your average 9th round pick does, and there aren’t too many hockey players who can fall back on an Ivy League degree once they inevitably hit the end of the hockey road.
5 Ben Lovejoy
Ben “The Reverend” Lovejoy was never drafted by an NHL team. When the Montreal Canadiens offered him a contract in 2006, Lovejoy turned it down because he wanted to stay at Dartmouth in order to finish his degree in history at the Ivy League school.
Lovejoy started out his post-secondary education at Boston College, but transferred to Dartmouth after his first year. As per NCAA rules, Lovejoy was forced to sit out his first year at Dartmouth, greatly risking his development as a player. Luckily, Lovejoy didn’t miss a step, and he managed to play solid hockey for Dartmouth all the while maintaining a satisfactory GPA.
4 Matt Moulson
When Matt Moulson was passed over by the Pittsburgh Penguins (the team that drafted him in 2003), and then let go by the Los Angeles Kings after toiling in their farm system for three seasons, he had one thought: “Thank God I went to school.”
Moulson didn’t just go to any old school. He graduated from Ivy League school Cornell University with a degree in economics. Luckily for Moulson, he was signed as a UFA by the Islanders in the offseason of 2009, and went on to score 30 goals three seasons in a row, riding shotgun to John Tavares. The 31-year-old is under contract for three more years with the Buffalo Sabres, expected to play an important role in mentoring the youthful core of that team.
3 Colin Greening
There are only a handful of NHL players who can say they’ve attended an Ivy League School; there are even fewer who can say they successfully graduated from an Ivy League school. There is only one who graduated and won the Lowe’s Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) national award, and his name is Colin Greening.
Selected by the Ottawa Senators in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Greening attended Cornell University and graduated with a degree in applied economics. His GPA was almost perfect, finishing with a 3.95. Incredible.
2 George Parros
Okay, I know George Parros announced his retirement back in December, but since he at least played this past season, I decided he deserved to be included. Parros has long been considered one of the smartest players in the NHL.
Parros majored in economics at Princeton, and he graduated with a 3.18 GPA and he scored a 1250 on his SATs. The enforcer was named the fourth-smartest athlete in all of sports by the Sporting News back in 2013, and the smartest of all NHL players. Parros retired mid-season with 1,092 PIM in his 474 games of action.
1 Alex Killorn
Just a few weeks ago, Alex Killorn of the Tampa Bay Lightning was battling it out for hockey’s Holy Grail in the Stanley Cup Final; in Game 1, he became the first Harvard graduate to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.
As a 15-year-old, Killorn was drafted 42nd overall in the QMJHL draft by Shawinigan; however, since the Killorn family values education so highly, the decision to attend Harvard was an easy one. After four years playing for the Crimson, Killorn not only finished as one of the team’s offensive leaders, but he graduated with a degree in political science with a 3.5 GPA—a staggering accomplishment for an All-American athlete attending an Ivy League school.