Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh is making the most out of the unusual circumstances surrounding this NHL season.  McDonagh is striving to complete his Bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

McDonagh, 31, grew up and attended high school in Minnesota where he was awarded the 2007 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, and was later drafted in the first round, No. 12 overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens.  Instead of signing to play professionally right away, McDonagh chose to attend Wisconsin and play hockey for the Badgers.

While at Wisconsin, on June 30, 2009, McDonagh was traded from the Canadiens to the Rangers, and a little over a year later on July 6, 2010, McDonagh chose to forgo his senior season at Wisconsin to sign an entry-level contract with the Rangers, and play hockey professionally.  Eduardo Encina from the Tampa Bay Times writes that at the time, McDonagh said it was the most difficult decision he had ever made.

McDonagh has put together an excellent NHL career, as he played eight seasons in New York, was named team captain, and is now in his fourth year with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  He is a two-time All-Star (2016, 2017) and won the 2020 Stanley Cup with the Lightning.  As of this writing, he as 301 points, 63 goals, 238 assists, and a career +/- of +189.

However, that incomplete degree from UW was still in the back of his mind, and McDonagh said getting his degree is something he’s been wanting to complete for a few years.  However, because of the NHL lifestyle, he hadn’t been able to get back to Madison to resume classes.  But now, in the era of covid, UW has expanded their online options and now offer a wider variety of classes, and McDonagh has enrolled in classes once again.

McDonagh is 18 credits away from earning his personal finance degree, and with the nature of this NHL season, he has more time on his hands to complete his assignments.  The NHL has protocols and safety regulations in place that essentially limit players to the arena, practice facility, and team hotel when traveling.  

“I’ve always, even a handful of years back, tried to find ways to continue my degree having one year left and just a handful of classes,” McDonagh said.  “I was gonna have a little bit of free time there to maybe hunker down.  I talked to some advisors and figured it was workable here.”

“It’s only been a couple of weeks,” McDonagh said. “But it’s something that I hopefully could finish here and at least be able to tell your kids that you have a college degree. So when it’s their time to go to school, you can back it up with some evidence yourself. So we’ll see how it goes, but it’s been fun.”

What a boss.  

Can you imagine being in one of your online classes and having Stanley Cup Champion and current NHL player Ryan McDonagh as one of your classmates?  One of McDonagh’s introductory discussion posts reads “I enjoy all sports and currently play pro hockey for the Tampa Bay Lightning.”  He also has the Stanley Cup as his profile picture.

What a flex.  So awesome.  

I’ve been in those online classes and those introductory posts are always so cheesy and awkward, but McDonagh comes in flexing on everyone.  In actual assignments, professors usually make everyone in the class respond to each other’s posts, so imagine posting your assignment to then have Ryan McDonagh, current NHL’er, who has the Stanley Cup as his profile picture, comment “These are some excellent points and I agree with your thinking!”

Also, I’d say he has a bit of an unfair advantage when it comes to the introductory fun facts on the first day of class. And those “two truths and a lie” intro things would be no problem.  “I am a Stanley Cup Champion, I am a two-time NHL All-Star, and I don’t like spicy food.  Which is the lie?”

In all seriousness, props to McDonagh for taking the steps towards completing his degree.  Very cool to see.


Title Photo: Ben Hankinson on Twitter

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