The 22nd Annual BLG Awards: CIS athlete of the year nominees announced

OTTAWA (CIS) – Canadian Interuniversity Sport and national law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) announced Tuesday the eight finalists for the 22nd Annual BLG Awards.

Official BLG Awards website: www.blg.com/blgawards

The BLG Awards were established in 1993 to recognize the top female and male athletes from universities affiliated with CIS.

On Monday, April 28, the eight national nominees will be honoured at the EPCOR Centre’s Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary. One female and one male winner will receive a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship, while all finalists will return home with a commemorative gold ring from Jostens and a commemorative watch from Timex, the official providers of CIS.

Calgary has played host to the awards gala on 18 occasions in the past, including the 20th anniversary edition in 2012. The event was also held in Toronto last year and in 2009, while Vancouver was the site of the 2011 ceremony. 

The 2014 awards show will premiere nationally on Sportsnet 360 on Thursday, May 15, at 9 p.m. EDT. A replay is scheduled for Sunday, May 18, at 1 p.m. EDT, also on Sportsnet 360.

“We are extremely excited to be hosting the 22nd BLG Awards in Calgary,” said Doug Mitchell, National Co-Chair of BLG. “We continue to be amazed by the talents and accomplishments of these outstanding athletes. Each year, as we follow the past winners and hear about their accomplishments or what they are involved in, we realize how important their university sports background has been to them. We congratulate the universities who have provided the great education and athletic programs for these students to succeed in their careers.”

“A key part of our mission is to help develop Canada’s next generation of leaders and these exceptional student-athletes are prime examples of the greatness that can be found at our Canadian universities,” said Pierre Lafontaine, chief executive officer of CIS. “To be nominated for a BLG Award is one of the most prestigious honours our 11,000 student-athletes can aspire to in their university careers. This is a very special honour not only for the eight finalists but also for their coaches, teammates, families, and anyone who contributed to their success.”

The 2014 nominees for the Jim Thompson Trophy presented to the female BLG Award recipient are hockey player Katia Clément-Heydra from McGill University, track and field standout Khamica Bingham from York University, volleyball player Lisa Barclay from the University of British Columbia, as well as basketball player Justine Colley from Saint Mary’s University, who was also nominated a year ago.

Colley, a fifth-year guard from East Preston, N.S., was named CIS player of the year in women’s basketball for the second straight season after she led the Atlantic conference in scoring for the fourth campaign in a row. The commerce student guided the Huskies to a perfect 20-0 regular season, a second consecutive AUS title and a program-best silver medal at the CIS championship.

Clément-Heydra, a fourth-year centre from St. Bruno de Montarville, Que., was voted CIS MVP in women’s hockey thanks to her 40 points (13-27-40) in only 20 league games, good for first in Quebec and second in the nation. The industrial relations major added 15 points in eight post-season contests as she helped the Martlets capture their first CIS banner since 2011.

Bingham, a second-year sprinter from Brampton, Ont., was named the OUA athlete of the year in track events and went on to pick up female-MVP honours at the CIS championships. The humanities student claimed three gold medals at the national meet, including a new record of 7.26 seconds in the marquee event, the 60-metre sprint. 

Barclay, a fourth-year outside hitter from Brandon, Man., was named CIS MVP in women’s volleyball after she led the country in kills (4.26) and points (4.99) per set. After guiding UBC to the CIS title in each of her first three campaigns with the team, the kinesiology student once again helped the Thunderbirds reach the national final, where they settled for silver.   

On the men’s side, the finalists for the Doug Mitchell Trophy are hockey player Liam Heelis from Acadia University, football player Jordan Heather from Bishop’s University, basketball player Philip Scrubb from Carleton University and hockey player Derek Hulak from the University of Saskatchewan.

Heelis, a third-year forward from Georgetown, Ont., earned CIS MVP honours in men’s hockey after he won the AUS scoring crown with 42 points, including a CIS-leading 24 goals in only 26 league games. The science student then guided the Axemen to their first Atlantic conference title since 2006 and their first University Cup championship appearance in eight years.

Heather, a fifth-year quarterback from Oromocto, N.B., merited the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top player in the country after he shattered one of the most prestigious single-season records in CIS football thanks to an astounding 3,132 passing yards in eight regular season games. The history student also set an RSEQ season mark with 20 touchdown passes and completed a team-record 199 passes while leading the Gaiters to their first six-win campaign (6-2) since 1993.

Scrubb, a fourth-year guard from Richmond, B.C., became the first player in history to be named CIS MVP for the third time in men’s basketball. The commerce student, who led Carleton in points (18.6) and assists (4.9) per game during league play, guided the Ravens to an unblemished 22-0 regular campaign and to their fourth CIS title in as many years with the team. 

Hulak, a fourth-year forward from Saskatoon, was named Canada West MVP and won the conference scoring race by 12 points over a 28-game schedule thanks to his 48 points (13-25-48), which ranked second in the country. The business student guided the Huskies to a second-place finish at the University Cup and, despite a heartbreaking loss to Alberta in the final, earned MVP honours after leading the three-game tournament in goals (4) and points (6).  

The BLG Awards are based on athletic accomplishments, outstanding sportsmanship and leadership. Each of the 54 CIS schools selects one female and one male athlete of the year. From these nominees, one female and one male athlete are chosen within each of the four regional associations: Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA). To be eligible, a student-athlete must have competed in a CIS sport for a minimum of two years and cannot be a previous recipient of a BLG Award.

All nominees receive a commemorative gold ring and winners are presented with a trophy and a $10,000 scholarship to attend a Canadian university graduate school. Winners are selected by the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit board established for the purpose of administering the BLG Awards and protecting the integrity of the selection process. The CAF Board of Trustees consists of 20 members from five Canadian cities representing major corporations from across the country who are committed to ensuring that Canadian university athletes receive the recognition they deserve.

2014 Female BLG Award Nominees (Jim Thompson Trophy):

AUS: Justine Colley, basketball, Saint Mary’s (East Preston, N.S.)
RSEQ: Katia Clément-Heydra, hockey, McGill (St. Bruno de Montarville, Que.)
OUA: Khamica Bingham, track & field, York (Brampton, Ont.)
CWUAA: Lisa Barclay, volleyball, UBC (Brandon, Man.)

2014 Male BLG Award Nominees (Doug Mitchell Trophy):

AUS: Liam Heelis, hockey, Acadia (Georgetown, Ont.)
RSEQ: Jordan Heather, football, Bishop’s (Oromocto, N.B.)
OUA: Philip Scrubb, basketball, Carleton (Richmond, B.C.)
CWUAA: Derek Hulak, hockey, Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, Sask.)

Past BLG Award Winners:

2012-13: Shanice Marcelle - UBC (volleyball) / Kyle Quinlan - McMaster (football)
2011-12: Ann-Sophie Bettez - McGill (hockey) / Marc-André Dorion - McGill (hockey)
2010-11: Jessica Clemençon - Windsor (basketball) / Tyson Hinz - Carleton (basketball)
2009-10: Liz Cordonier - UBC (volleyball) / Erik Glavic - Calgary (football)
2008-09: Annamay Pierse - UBC (swimming) / Joel Schmuland - Alberta (volleyball)
2007-08: Laetitia Tchoualack - Montreal (volleyball) / Rob Hennigar - UNB (hockey)
2006-07: Jessica Zelinka - Calgary (track & field) / Josh Howatson - Trinity Western (volleyball)
2005-06: Marylène Laplante - Laval (volleyball) / Osvaldo Jeanty - Carleton (basketball)
2004-05: Adrienne Power - Dalhousie (track & field) / Jesse Lumsden - McMaster (football)
2003-04: Joanna Niemczewska - Calgary (volleyball) / Adam Ens - Saskatchewan (volleyball)
2002-03: Kim St-Pierre - McGill (hockey) / Ryan McKenzie - Windsor (cross country & T&F)
2001-02: Elizabeth Warden - Toronto (swimming) / Brian Johns - UBC (swimming)
2000-01: Leighann Doan - Calgary (basketball) / Kojo Aidoo - McMaster (football)
1999-00: Jenny Cartmell - Alberta (volleyball) / Michael Potts - Western (soccer)
1998-99: Corinne Swirsky - Concordia (hockey) / Alexandre Marchand - Sherbrooke (T&F)
1997-98: Foy Williams - Toronto (track & field) / Titus Channer - McMaster (basketball)
1996-97: Terri-Lee Johannesson - Manitoba (basketball) / Curtis Myden - Calgary (swimming)
1995-96: Justine Ellison - Toronto (basketball) / Don Blair - Calgary (football)
1994-95: Linda Thyer - McGill (track & field) / Bill Kubas - Wilfrid Laurier (football)
1993-94: Sandra Carroll - Winnipeg (basketball) / Tim Tindale - Western (football)
1992-93: Diane Scott - Winnipeg (volleyball) / Andy Cameron - Calgary (volleyball)

2013-2014 FEMALE BLG AWARD NOMINEES (Jim Thompson Trophy)

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

Justine Colley
Saint Mary’s University 
Sport: Basketball
Year of eligibility: 5
Academic program: Commerce
Hometown: East Preston, N.S.

It has been a very busy and successful year for Saint Mary’s University basketball player Justine Colley since she earned her first BLG Award nomination 12 months ago.

A few weeks after last year’s ceremony in Toronto, the talented guard from East Preston, N.S., received the news she had been so eagerly hoping for: She had been selected to the Canadian senior national team and would spend the next few months travelling the world with the country’s best. Her magical summer was capped off by a second-place finish at the FIBA Americas championship last September in Mexico, a result that qualified Canada for the 2014 FIBA Worlds in Turkey (Sept. 27 – Oct. 5).   

Back with the Huskies later in the fall, Colley made the most of her fifth and final university season, and then some.

At the AUS conference level, the commerce student won her fourth straight scoring crown thanks to her 20.8 point-per-game average. Thanks in large part to her stellar play, Saint Mary’s kept an unblemished 20-0 record in league play and reached the top of the national rankings - two firsts in the history of the program - and went on to claim its second consecutive AUS banner.

Colley then merited her second straight Nan Copp Award as CIS player of the year, one year after becoming the first-ever recipient from an AUS school. At the CIS championship in Windsor, the 22-year-old led the Huskies to a program-best silver medal, a run that included a mindboggling 38-point performance in a 67-54 semifinal win over Saskatchewan.

Over the course of the season, Colley also became the all-time scoring leader in CIS women’s basketball history with 2,376 points. The youngest of five children (three girls and two boys), she finished her brilliant university career with five selections as a first-team AUS all-star, four as an all-Canadian – including three first-team nods – and one on the CIS all-rookie squad.

“Justine established herself as one of the top players ever to play in CIS after winning her second consecutive MVP trophy. The stats certainly back up that claim. However, her impact on our team and a basketball game go far beyond stats,” says Saint Mary’s head coach Scott Munro. “She is simply one of the best leaders I have ever been around. Her desire to compete and win separates her from any other student-athlete I have coached. Justine is certainly a unique individual.”

Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ)

Katia Clément-Heydra
McGill University
Sport: Hockey
Year of eligibility: 4
Academic program: Industrial Relations
Hometown: St. Bruno de Montarville, Que.

Katia Clément-Heydra is the latest superstar from the women’s hockey powerhouse at McGill University to be nominated for a BLG Award. She follows in the footsteps of Mélodie Daoust (2013), Ann-Sophie Bettez (2012 winner), Charline Labonté (2009) and Kim St-Pierre (2003 winner). Daoust, Labonté and St-Pierre all went on to capture Olympic gold with Canada. 

In her fourth season with the Martlets, Clément-Heydra claimed the RSEQ conference scoring title and ranked second in the nation with 40 points - including 13 goals - in only 20 games, helping McGill finish atop the standings in the Quebec league with a sparkling 18-2 record. An alternate captain, she either scored or assisted on a remarkable 49.4 per cent of the team’s 81 markers in league play. Of her 13 goals, four were game-winners, five came on the power play and two were shorthanded.

The 5-foot-7 centre from St. Bruno de Montarville, Que., received the Brodrick Trophy as CIS player of the year, as well meriting her second straight all-Canadian selection, her first on the top unit.

More importantly, the 24-year-old industrial relations senior maintained her torrid pace in the playoffs with a 6-9-15 record in eight contests to guide McGill to its first national title since her rookie season in 2010-11. After falling in three games to archrival Montreal in the best-of-three RSEQ final series, the Martlets had the last laugh at the CIS championship with a thrilling 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Carabins in the title match.

While she did not join former teammate Daoust and Labonté on the 2014 Canadian Olympic roster, Clément-Heydra enjoyed her own international gold-medal run a few months before the Sochi Games. Last December, she helped Canada three-peat as World University Games champion in Trentino, Italy, where she finished second in tournament scoring with a whopping 18 points (5-13-18) in only seven games.    

With one season remaining in her university career, next fall, she ranks fourth all-time in team scoring with an impressive 103-144-247 dossier in 166 contests overall.

“Katia plays with such confidence and has improved so much over her career in every aspect of her game, especially so since last year,” says McGill head coach Peter Smith. “One of the biggest factors is how hard she worked last summer. She came into training camp so fit this season that the rest of her game just fell into place. She really embraced her leadership, played exceptionally hard this season and was justly rewarded.”

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

Khamica Bingham
York University
Sport: Track & Field
Year of eligibility: 2
Academic program: Humanities
Hometown: Brampton, Ont.

To say that Khamica Bingham was dominant in her first season with York University’s track and field team would be an understatement.    

The standout from Brampton, Ont., who started her university career a year ago with the Toronto Varsity Blues, was named the OUA female athlete of the year in track events in her Lions debut. The 19-year-old was under the spotlight heading into the conference and national championships, and did she ever live up to the hype.    

At the OUA championships in Toronto, Bingham set a meet and school record of 7.23 seconds in the marquee event, the 60-metre final, and also claimed gold in the 4x200 relay. Two weeks later in Edmonton, at the CIS year-end meet, she added three more gold medals, including a new championship mark in the 60m (7.26) and the best times in the country this season in the 300m (38.36) and 4x200 (1:38.53).

She had already captured CIS gold in the 60m and 4x200 in her rookie campaign with the UofT in 2013.

Of course, Bingham’s domination on the university circuit comes as no surprise to regular followers of Canadian athletics. Last summer, a few weeks after she represented Canada at the World University Games, she ran the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay team that broke the senior national record at the IAAF world championships in Russia (42.99). The talented sprinter had already caught the attention of international connoisseurs at the 2012 IAAF World Juniors in Spain, where she missed the podium by .01 seconds in the 100m, and at the 2011 world youth championships in France, where she was part of a bronze medal-winning relay.    

A national level gymnast before she took up track and field, the humanities student now hopes to add another honour to her impressive resume as she could become the first York athlete to hoist a BLG Award. The school’s only previous nominees were basketball player Karen Jackson (1997) and soccer player Francesco Bruno (2009). 

“Khamica is an extremely talented student-athlete whose ability on the track speaks for itself. She has already re-written the CIS record book in just two years and I believe there is still plenty more to come,” says York head coach Colin Inglis. “She has the ability to be one of the top female sprinters Canada has ever produced, and it is great to see her competing in CIS to help her develop as a runner.”

Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA)

Lisa Barclay
University of British Columbia
Sport: Volleyball
Year of eligibility: 4
Academic program: Kinesiology
Hometown: Brandon, Man.

A native of Brandon, Man., Lisa Barclay extends the University of British Columbia’s remarkable streak to six consecutive finalists for the Jim Thompson Trophy, including three nominees who put their hands on the coveted award. She follows in the footsteps of swimmer Annamay Pierse (2009 winner), volleyball player Liz Cordonier (2010 winner), field hockey player Robyn Pendleton (2012), as well as former teammate Shanice Marcelle, a two-time nominee who claimed the trophy last year in Toronto.

While the past season saw the end of the Thunderbirds’ amazing six-year reign atop the CIS women’s volleyball world, Barclay enjoyed one of the best campaigns in recent memory.

The fourth-year outside hitter claimed the Mary Lyons Award as CIS player of the year after she led the country in kills (4.26) and points (4.99) per set in league play, her-point-per-game average being the highest in the Canada West conference in seven years. Thanks to her stellar play, the 6-foot-2 standout earned first-team all-star status in both Canada West and CIS for the second straight season. 

After winning yet another Canada West title with a gold-medal victory over Manitoba, the T-Birds came just short of prolonging their record CIS championship streak two weeks later in Regina, dropping a rematch against the same Bisons in the national final.

Despite the heartbreaking loss to the school for whom her father, Mel, once played football, Barclay was named a championship all-star for the third consecutive year. She was the MVP of the 2012 and 2013 CIS tournaments.

The 21-year-old kinesiology student has also showcased her talent on the international stage in recent years. A mainstay with the Canadian senior national team, she has represented the country at numerous competitions, including two World University Games (2011, 2013), a pair of Pan American Cups (2012, 2013), as well as the 2013 senior NORCECA continental championship in Nebraska and the 2010 junior NORCECA in Mexico.

“What I really love about Lisa’s progression here at UBC is the development of her overall game. This year, she raised the bar and grew her entire game, really carrying the team on her back most nights,” says UBC head coach Doug Reimer. “Despite being arguably the most dominant power hitter in the country, she is the most humble and probably self-critical player I have coached in a long time. Her teammates love playing with her and just enjoy her personality.” 

2013-2014 MALE BLG AWARD NOMINEES (Doug Mitchell Trophy)

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)
 
Liam Heelis
Acadia University
Sport: Hockey
Year of eligibility: 3
Academic program: Science (Bachelor of Science in Psychology)
Hometown: Georgetown, Ont.

Liam Heelis’ hockey season started back in August with his participation at the Florida Panthers NHL prospects camp and didn’t slow down from there.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward exploded in his third campaign with the Acadia University Axemen, winning the AUS conference scoring title with 42 points - including a CIS-leading 24 goals - in only 26 league games. A terrific special teams player, the sniper tied for the CIS lead with four short-handed markers and was second in the AUS with seven power play goals. He also potted three game-winners and ranked second in the Maritimes with 117 shots.

Thanks in large part to his stellar play, the Axemen took second place in the ultra-competitive Atlantic conference with a superb 21-4-3 record and went on to capture their first AUS banner – and book their first ticket for the University Cup national championship - since 2006.

During the December break, the science major was part of an AUS all-star team that travelled to Trentino, Italy to represent Canada at the Winter World University Games. Following a 2-1 semifinal victory over two-time defending champion Russia, whose powerful lineup included no less than 11 players with KHL experience, the Canadians defeated Kazakhstan 6-2 in the gold-medal final to claim the country’s fourth FISU title.

Hockey is in his blood and sport is part of the family genetics.

A former OHL player with Owen Sound and Peterborough, Heelis spent countless winters in the backyard on a rink his father built ever year. His mom, Adele, and his uncle, Pat, are both former University of Waterloo student-athletes in basketball and hockey, respectively, while his aunt, Jennifer, played basketball at the University of Guelph. His sister, Katie, competed in cheerleading for two years at Wilfrid Laurier University and his younger brother, 16-year-old Daniel, was recently drafted by Owen Sound in the OHL Priority Selection.

Heelis’ hometown of Georgetown, Ont., a small community 40 minutes North-West of Toronto, is known for “Little NHL”, where organized minor hockey leagues began.

“I strongly feel that Liam epitomizes what a CIS student-athlete should be,” says Acadia head coach Darren Burns. “There is no question his abilities as a player was evident this year on the ice. However, his ability to be a leader on our campus and in the community is even more impressive. There is no doubt is work ethic, passion and overall commitment to success make him an excellent candidate for this prestigious award.” 

Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ)

Jordan Heather
Bishop’s University 
Sport: Football
Year of eligibility: 5
Academic program: History
Hometown: Oromocto, N.B.

Jordan Heather made his fifth and final football season with Bishop’s University a memorable one. The Oromocto, N.B., native rewrote the record books en route to becoming the first-ever member of the Gaiters to claim the Hec Crighton Trophy as CIS player of the year.

The 6-foot, 185-pound history student shattered one of the most prestigious single-season marks in CIS football last fall thanks to an astounding 3,132 passing yards in eight league games. He also set a new RSEQ season standard with 20 touchdown passes and completed a team-record 199 passes, tying him for first in the country in 2013. Over the course of his magical campaign, he was named RSEQ player of the week four times and claimed the CIS honour on three occasions in nine contests, including playoffs.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic of Heather’s senior season, his signature moment came on September 28 against none other than the powerful Laval Rouge et Or and their nationally top-ranked defence. That day, the veteran pivot threw for 538 yards, a school record and the most in history by any quarterback against Laval. While the Gaiters couldn’t quite pull off the upset – they lost 46-38 – their offensive outburst represented over 40 per cent of the points allowed by the eventual Vanier Cup champions all season (92).

Thanks to his spectacular play, the Gaiters finished the regular season with six wins (6-2) for the first time since 1993 and hosted their first playoff game since 1994. Heather ended his university career as Bishop’s all-time leader in TD passes (50), completions (565), attempts (998) and yards (7,983).

His fondest memories from his time at Bishop’s, however, have nothing to do with records and everything to do with playing with his younger brother Nathan, a receiver, something he calls the “experience of a lifetime”. Over the past four seasons, the duo connected for 72 completions.  

Jordan is currently resuming his playing career with the St. Etienne Giants, in France.

“Jordan was awesome,” says Bishop’s head coach Kevin Mackey. “He showed real maturity in his fifth year and was one of the leaders of our team. We knew in pre-season that we had one of the, if not the best quarterback in the country and he really showed the rest of Canada what he was capable of. He and Brent Bailey, our offensive coordinator, have a great relationship and that translated to exciting football. Jordan will definitely go down as one of the greats.”

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

Philip Scrubb
Carleton University
Sport: Basketball
Year of eligibility: 4
Academic program: Commerce
Hometown: Richmond, B.C.

Philip Scrubb was heavily recruited out of Vancouver College back in 2010 and all the Richmond, B.C., native has done since is prove he was well worth the hype.

After landing with the powerhouse Carleton University Ravens, the 6-foot-3 guard launched his CIS basketball career with a bang when he was named MVP of his first university pre-season tournament in Quebec City following a 35-point explosion in the gold-medal final. At the end of his freshman campaign, he was voted CIS rookie of the year, becoming the first-ever Raven to earn the honour.

A year later, the commerce student won his first Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as CIS player of the year. A second MVP award followed in 2013 and then a third this season, making the 21-year-old the only three-time recipient of the Moser Trophy in history.

Not surprisingly, having the best player in the country on their roster didn’t hurt the Ravens over the past four years. Carleton has captured the CIS banner every season since Scrubb joined the program.

In 2013-14, Scrubb once again led his team in points (18.6) and assists (4.9) per game and ranked in the top 10 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, three-point shooting, free-throw percentage, assists, as well as points per 40 minutes (27.0). On their way to winning their record 10th national title – all in the past 12 years – the Ravens compiled a remarkable 33-1 overall mark against CIS opponents.

Many predict a successful professional career is in Scrubb’s future. He has already represented Canada at numerous international competitions, including the under-19 world championship (2011), Pan American Games (2011) and World University Games (2013). Last summer, he was the only active CIS player – and the youngest overall - invited to the Canadian senior national team camp.

One of the secrets to his success? Basketball runs in the family. His older brother Thomas, also a star with the Ravens, was named CIS defensive MVP this season and played alongside Philip at last summer’s Universiade in Russia. Both their parents played university hoops, their mother at Bishop’s and their father at UBC and Victoria.

“Phil is a highly talented and well accomplished player. His ability speaks for itself in his success,” says Carleton head coach Dave Smart. “He is a humble and selfless individual regarding the team. He is an extremely good student, balancing his dedication to the team and sport with his academics.”

Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA)

Derek Hulak
University of Saskatchewan
Sport: Hockey
Year of eligibility: 4
Academic program: Business
Hometown: Saskatoon, Sask.

Two words are at the centre of Derek Hulak’s life and hockey career: Saskatchewan and family.

The Saskatoon native spent his five WHL seasons in his home province, first with the Regina Pats and then with his hometown Blades, whom he captained and led in scoring in each of his last two junior campaigns.

Hulak then briefly tried his luck in the professional ranks with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League before returning to Canada to play CIS hockey at the University of Saskatchewan. What followed was a superb four-year career with the Huskies, capped off by a memorable final season.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound forward ran away with his second Canada West scoring title in three years in 2013-14, tallying an impressive 48 points (13-35-48) in 28 games to win the race by 12 points. After being named conference MVP and a first-team all-Canadian, he guided the Huskies to the silver medal at the CIS championship in front of their home crowd in Saskatoon. Despite a heartbreaking loss to archrival Alberta in the title match, Hulak was voted University Cup MVP after leading the tournament in goals (4) and points (6).    

At the end of the CIS season, the business student embarked on a pro tryout with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League, a team coached by Willie Desjardins, the only previous Huskie to be named University Cup MVP back in 1983. Hulak didn’t disappoint in his AHL debut, scoring on his first shift on March 27, just four days after the CIS final. 

Hulak was deeply affected by the passing of his mother, Alina, who died of cancer in 2007. A few months earlier, the Pats and Blades orchestrated a trade to allow him to play closer to home and be by his mother’s side. Since her passing, he writes the initials A.H. on all his hockey sticks.

Derek’s older brother, Dan, has also been a great source of inspiration over the years. A 1998 draft pick of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Dan is also a former CIS all-Canadian with the Huskies.

“Playing at the next level was always Derek’s dream but he wanted to do it with an education,” says Saskatchewan head coach Dave Adolph. “What separates the best from the rest in CIS is their will to improve and succeed in both the classroom and the athletic arena. Derek had a plan and he achieved it. He became the example for many to follow by doing it the right way every day.”

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