For most, the back-to-school journey begins with jumping on a big yellow bus in the morning, or moving to the city to pursue a post-secondary education. Seldom does it involve getting on a plane and travelling over 3,000 kilometres.
For Tryg Strand, this is just the beginning.
Growing up in Invermere, Strand began his hockey career catching on with the Columbia Valley Rockies before advancing his junior career to play at the Junior A level for Alberni Valley in the BCHL. It was in his final year playing for Alberni, while also being named the team captain, that he began to think about the next steps for his career.
Playing in the BCHL, he was afforded the opportunity to discover a number of options for continuing playing hockey while also working toward an education. He said the first of those options was the possibility of pursuing a spot on a Division 1 roster in the NCAA south of the border. He took the SATs twice, preparing for the academic requirements of the NCAA league, but eventually decided that route was not for him.
It was then that he received an invitation from the head coach at the University of Guelph to visit the school to think about the possibility of joining their Gryphons CIS roster.
“When we got walked around, the coach showed me the campus, which was a big draw, and some of the academic facilities and that’s another one of the big reasons,” he said. “To be able to keep playing hockey is awesome, but to be able to get some education is huge because at any moment you can get an injury and have to go back to the real life workforce.”
Starting his academic and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) career in 2014, Tryg had to adjust to the biggest move of his life, away from all of his friends and family.
“It’s big and sometimes it weighs on you a little bit, missing some of your friends back home and your family,” he said, mentioning that having a relative in the area helped ease the transition. “I’ve been living away from home since I was 16 or 17 so you kind of get used to it. It’s kind of the way it is with the life of a hockey player; you’re playing away from home and you have to get used to it.”
Playing in his first season, Tryg said he had to adjust to a faster paced, more physical league against players as old as 25 — far more experienced than the 20-year-old players of his junior career. After a few games he was able to adjust as a gritty power forward, helping the Gryphons win the Queen’s Cup — the league championship — at season’s end. The team followed that run of success with a third-place finish at the national tournament to close out Tryg’s rookie season.
Now, two seasons later, Tryg is taking on the role of a leader in the locker room, teaching freshman, known as rookies, the ropes of what it takes to be both a scholar and a hockey player.
“It’s a big step to go play junior, but it’s a bigger step when you go to play at university because you have to handle your off-ice affairs just as much as on-ice almost because every player that plays has to keep a 70 average so if you let your school slip because you’re just focusing on hockey then you won’t be able to play,” he said. “You have to be able to fully invest yourself into your school, but also invest yourself into hockey as well.”
As a third year student studying commerce, Tryg has aspirations that extend beyond the classroom and lecture halls of his Ontario university.
“The plan is to play four years, get my degree and then go to play pro in Europe or, if the opportunities present themselves, in North America, then that too,” he said, acknowledging that at some point there will be a life after hockey for him.
“I think it would be cool, eventually down the road, to maybe work with a professional sports team as a way to stay close to the game after I’m done playing. Hopefully that’s quite a few years from now.”