If you’re looking for perspective on what it takes to balance the demands of a 72-game Western Hockey League schedule with academic requirements most fans never hear about, Spokane Chiefs defenseman Dalton Hamaliuk is the right guy to ask.
Hamaliuk is focusing his efforts on hockey during his 19-year-old season, but his classroom resume is as impressive as it gets. As a high-school senior, he was Spokane’s Scholastic Player of the Year two seasons ago, when he was enrolled in college-level Advanced Placement Physics and Calculus one semester, and completed an online university course during the next.
“You can succeed at both,” he says. “In school, you need to make a schedule and plan ahead, especially on road trips. Just like on the ice, you need to think ahead, because it’s easier when you know what’s coming. Spending extra time with teachers is like doing extra work with your coaches and trainers.”
It takes the same focus in the classroom, he said. A normal day at school is like practice, and tests are the equivalent of games.
“On the ice, it’s about putting in time, wanting to get better and succeed, and not sitting around playing video games and watching TV,” he said. “You can’t be successful if you’re not working to get better every day.”
Hamaliuk plans to enroll in a third university course later this season, but he decided that for now he wants to see how far hockey can take him.
“I’ve only got this season and next in the WHL, and I don’t want to look back someday and wonder if I’d been able to go further if my attention wasn’t divided between school and hockey. I don’t want to have any regrets down the road.”
He feels that he came into camp this season stronger and faster after an intensive summer workout program. The challenge, he says, is watching what he eats and doing exercises that build muscle, but not bulk. His goal was to increase his strength without compromising speed.
Dalton is the oldest of three siblings, so a leadership role comes naturally to him: “Whatever my younger brother and sister saw me do, they followed.” By that same measure, it’s important to him to be a leader on the Chiefs now, someone whom younger players look up to.
And his advice for younger players facing the challenges of hockey and school? Whether it’s in the classroom or on the ice, he says, know your position, use your brain and plan ahead.
Spokane Chiefs Education Advisor Joe Everson works with all Chiefs players, from those still in high school to those pursuing a post-secondary education or preparing to do so following their WHL career. He helped lead the Chiefs to the WHL’s Scholastic Team of the Year Award for the 2015-16 season. Throughout the season, Everson will profile individual Chiefs to provide insight into their lives, their mindset and their goals for the future.