You can learn a lot by giving it the old college try.
Jay Langager’s prowess at manning the blueline for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns earned him the eighth-best spot among the top 50 athletes in the school’s history.
However, more importantly, his days at the U of L and in hockey led to him finding a profession he loves as lead teacher with the Foothills Composite High School’s Global Hockey Sports Academy.
“It’s great to be with student-athletes who want to further their skills and work to where they want to go in hockey, whether it is playing junior or hopefully getting an education out of it,” Langager said of the academy. “Maybe you don’t make it to junior or college, but down the road you can learn through sports certain things that you need in life as well.”
Langager is a prime example.
His hockey opportunities helped catapult him to success on and off the ice.
The U of L selected its top 50 athletes of all-time in early December as part of the school’s golden anniversary of intercollegiate sports. The criteria was not just based on athletics, but also a student’s academics and community services.
Langager played defence for the Pronghorns from 2005-2007.
He was named Canada West all-star both years and was the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy recipient as the Canadian Interuniversity Sport player of the year in 2006-‘07. He was third in the team in scoring, with 34 points (5G, 29A) that season.
“That year I just felt physically and mentally at my peak,” the 37-year-old Langager said. “I was up for two awards, kind of the academic and citizenship award as well. I was just thrilled to be nominated. It’s nice to be recognized, but I have always been humble and realize you have to look back at all the people that helped out at U of L. The coaches, your teammates, the professors that allowed me to have success not only in the school area, but on the ice as well.”
His biggest highlight hockey wise was the turnaround in the program. The Pronghorns were 5-28-2 in 2004-05, during Langager’s red-shirt year. They would improve to 16-16-0-2 in 2006-07.
“The program was a struggle and you saw the turnaround from my first-year to the next year,” he said. “To see success on ice was definitely a highlight.”
Although he shined on and off the ice, it was a struggle.
“Things didn’t come easy for me I had to work at it,” Langager said of his academics. “Spending the extra time, getting help from the professors and other peers.”
He ended up on the dean’s list all four years at U of L, graduating with great distinction in his bachelor of arts degree and distinction with his bachelor of education.
Before attending the U of L, Langager played junior hockey with the Swift Current Broncos - under the direction of Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan - and then some pro hockey in the American and East Coast Hockey League.
“I was taking classes online while I was playing professionally,” Langager said. “My parents had instilled in me that I would need an education at some point… When I got to U of L, I started taking things from geography to kinesiology, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
However, some gentle prodding from a U of L alumnus got Langager interested in education.
“Chris Leroux started a hockey academy at a high school (Catholic Central in Lethbridge) and I thought: ‘Hey I can teach my passion and share my knowledge with my kids.”
Leroux, the nephew of Dave Holowaychuk, a former Red Deer Lake school teacher and for which the Cayley School gymnasium is named, helped Langager get his first teaching job, running the academy at Catholic Central High School.
Langager later taught hockey programs at Heritage Heights in Davisburg, then at Okotoks Junior High School before coming to Foothills in September.
He’s gone beyond the hockey program.
“At the high school level there is the hockey end, the outdoor ed, and helping with woodshop and welding and I am starting a plumbing one up,” he said.
It means he keeps on learning to teach his passions. When Langager received word that he was named to the Pronghorns top 50, he was at a bookstore getting resources for the upcoming plumbing courses.
“I think it really rubs off on the students when they see you are passionate in those areas and willing to continue to develop your education for that end,” he said. “Typically, kids that are in those courses are there to learn and put in the time and effort because it is their passion as well.”