While they take place in two different arenas, thriving academically and on the ice share one important trait; you get out what you put in.
For Gordie Ballhorn, he’s living that in both senses as he charts his academic path forward at the University of Saskatchewan, also starring with the Huskies’ men’s hockey program.
“I wasn’t the guy that hated going to class or anything like that,” said the second-year business student. “I was excited and open to the new challenge.”
The Wetaskiwin, Alta. product played 175 WHL regular season games throughout three seasons with the Kelowna Rockets from 2015 through to 2018. Following a brief stint in the professional ranks with the ECHL’s Allen Americans, Ballhorn returned to Western Canada to access his WHL Scholarship.
“It was always a goal to play in the WHL,” Ballhorn said. “It’s cool because you’re also playing against the best players in the world with this kind of as your backup plan, which is always good to have.”
Ballhorn’s academic pursuits didn’t take a break during his time with the Rockets as he completed coursework as well. The defenceman admitted the temptation was there to just focus on hockey at times, but that building himself up academically was still just as important. That decision is now paying dividends for his time management skills in Saskatoon.
“Here, you don’t practice until 3:30 or 4:30, you’ve got to go to a couple classes throughout the day, do some studying, make sure you’re staying on top of things so you don’t fall too far behind” Ballhorn said. “By the end of the day you’re a lot more exhausted playing U SPORTS than you would be in junior, but it’s a good challenge.”
With Ballhorn’s commitment to his studies came the eventual rewards as he was recognized as an Academic All-Canadian based off his performance in the classroom. On the ice, Ballhorn was named to Canada West’s All-Rookie Team for the 2018-19 season.
“You’re not just a hockey player anymore,” Ballhorn said. “You’re pursuing another avenue in life, so you have a little bit more purpose.
“You’re there to get a degree and learn about the degree you’re using so it’s pretty cool that way.”
Like any good hockey player has learned at one point or another, individual growth can come through teamwork as well. Ballhorn has sought help from teammates in his same field of study, helping him to gain a better perspective of what to expect while making his adjustment to full-time academics at a post-secondary institution.
“You can ask them questions and go to them for a little bit of help or what classes you needed to take,” Ballhorn said. “They were a big part of it.”
Even with weekend road trips, practices, and a full course load, Ballhorn noted it was essential for him to reach out to his professors. Not expecting special treatment for his athletic status, Ballhorn has shared his relentless passion for the puck into a passion in the classroom. If he has questions, he allocates time to follow up with professors after a class, visit them during office hours, or even solicit help from a tutor.
Especially when the playoffs and exams are on the horizon for Ballhorn and all WHL Alumni throughout the Canada West conference and U SPORTS, it’s the extra effort that will end up with the winning mark, regardless of the arena they’re in at the moment.
“At the end of the day, you’re still a student and your marks still count the same as the next guy, so you’ve got to put in that much more work if you want to be successful.”