Growing up in North Vancouver, B.C., Connor Rankin always had dreams of taking his game to the next level. The Western Hockey League Alumni just finished his last season with the Mount Royal University Cougars and is looking forward to his next chapter in life. Rankin not only utilized his WHL Scholarship, but also found a home away from home in a city he fell for.
Rankin joined the WHL with his eyes set on maximizing his potential and saw the possibility of someday going pro down the road.
“At the time that was my goal,” Rankin said. “With high-end coaches and management, along with great exposure it seemed to be a no brainer.
“What also caught my eye was the scholarship. Knowing there was a backup plan contributed to my decision.”
Rankin was early to identify the potential in gaining his education while also capitalizing on the oppertunity of playing high level hockey in the WHL. Rankin was selected seventh overall by the Tri-City Americans at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft and left his mark on the league over his five seasons. The forward split his time in the WHL with the Americans and Calgary Hitmen, playing a big impact on and off the ice where ever he laced up.
Some of Rankins fondest memories in the WHL were playing in front of crowds to hanging with his teammates. This was everything from playing in sold-out games at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash. to helping mentor the likes of Jake Bean and Carsen Twarynski in their first seasons with the Calgary Hitmen. One of the experiences that stood out for Rankin was the volunteering experience he gained.
“The visit to the Alberta’s Children Hospital made a great impact on me after the teddy bear toss games, no question,” said Rankin. “The biggest one, however, that I have carried forward was skating with aspiring hockey players. When I was younger, older hockey players would always help and I looked up to them a lot. To do the same now is something that I am passionate about.”
Reflecting on his time in the WHL, Rankin highlights how fast time can pass on the road and encourages players new to the league to live in the moment and enjoy every second of it.
“The friendships you develop will always be with you and those times spent together [with teammates] should never be taken for granted”
After his time in the WHL concluded, Rankin saw an opportunity to gain a post-secondary education and utilize his WHL Scholarship, while also staying in a city he became close with.
“After playing for the Calgary Hitmen, Calgary became a home to me,” Rankin said. “I wanted to stay here and keep playing hockey.”
Upon his acceptance into the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal, Rankin was initially worried balancing school with hockey.
However, over time, things would fall into place for the now 25-year-old.
Set to graduate after this semester, Rankin highlights the importance of time management while balancing school, hockey and a social life.
“Having time management skills and keeping organized are essential. At the start, it will be overwhelming, but stick with it, learn from it, and enjoy it,” Rankin said. “There are so many resources available to varsity athletes that are there to help. From coaches, teammates, school staff and programs, there are a ton of resources in place to help athletes succeed.”
On the ice, Rankin played a key role for the Cougars over his five years in U SPORTS. His best season came in 2016-17 where he was awarded the Dave Sweeney Schriner Scoring Trophy for most points in Canada West. In 2019, Rankin was also named a recipient of the UBC Hockey Alumni Trophy for Sportsmanship and Ability.
While with the Cougars, Rankin put up impressive numbers and notes the overall improvement of the quality across the league since he joined in 2016. Since Rankin joined the Cougars, he saw players taking the opportunity to grow their game while also gaining an education off the ice.
“You see it with guys signing out of U SPORTS to the KHL, AHL, and the NHL. The hockey is great.”
Rankin is excited for the future with the potential of continuing his hockey playing career but also notes the value the WHL Scholarship meant to him.
“I have the opportunity to do what I want,” Rankin said. “Now that I am finishing up, I can still take a shot at playing pro or I can use my degree to start my accounting career. Either way I am set up to succeed.”
Rankin highlights the value the WHL Scholarship provided to him while pursing his studies at Mount Royal. Although it altered his path to potentially playing pro hockey directly after his time in the WHL concluded, utilizing the scholarship was something that Rankin had always been interested in.
“Most students have the financial stress on top of school and work, so we are very lucky to have an opportunity like this,” Rankin said.
With the light at the end of the tunnel getting closer for Rankin, he is ready to see what life has in store after graduation with various options available.
Most importantly however, Rankin can take a shot at his dream of playing pro hockey and can do so knowing he completed a degree in a city he can now home.