Most students must make choices during their college years about whether work can fit into their schedules, but usually their jobs do not involve playing pro sports. Matt Williams, last season's University of Alaska Anchorage hockey captain, recently had to quit his job playing for the Anchorage Aces to focus on being a full-time student. Williams signed on with the Aces in August.
Aces coach Walt Poddubny was impressed with Williams, a 24-year-old, 6-foot, 200-pound blue-liner from Madison, Wisc. Poddubny said he admired Williams' dedication as a hockey player as well as his character.
Williams said he chose the Aces, even though he had offers from outside Alaska, because he wanted to stay in shape while finishing his final year of school.
“I missed a few practices, and coach wasn't too happy about it,” Williams said.
Several current Aces players are attending UAA, including Clayton Read, Rob Douglas and Chris Pont, and several have completed degrees from the university in the past.
“Paul Williams finished his degree at UAA in business while playing for the team and now leads the Aces in scoring. Dean Larson came back to the Aces after playing in Europe and finished a degree at UAA,” Donald said.
However, Donald knows that combining college and pro hockey isn't easy. “I took 12 credits and it was nearly impossible. I give a lot of credit to players who are able to take classes and play,” Donald said.
Donald said the only time attending school becomes a problem is when players do try to take classes full time. “Generally, they take two classes a semester because of our extensive travel. If the guy's got finals and is playing for the team, we have made some considerations for them in the past,” he said.
“But some players who wanted to take 12 to 15 credits made the decision to make a commitment to school,” Donald said. “I appreciate Matt's integrity. But we have to make 100 percent sure that they've made a commitment to the team.”
Currently, Williams is not on the Aces' active list, but Donald said that could change. “For us, it's a long season, so there's always an opportunity that Matt could be back on the roster.”
This semester, Williams is taking four classes and said he intends to take five classes next semester to complete his degree in May, so the likelihood of seeing Williams return to the Aces this year is slim.