Athletes have mixed feelings about retirement
All good things must come to an end, and a college sporting career is no different.
Each year, as athletes at SAIT finish their academic studies, some of them also end their athletic runs.
Although the ACAC conference is competitive and features top level athletes from across the country, it’s rare for an athlete to play professionally after graduation.
Captain of the SAIT men’s hockey team Kevin Lessard has had a memorable career with the Trojans.
After a thrilling overtime win in game four of the ACAC final, the Trojans were set for a fifth and deciding game against the Mount Royal University Cougars. Lessard was ejected from game four, and found out he would be suspended for the final match.
“It’s pretty hard to watch your last career game from the stands,” said Lessard.
Only a few weeks away from graduating with an applied bachelor degree of petroleum engineering, Lessard is ready to start a new chapter in his life. But hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t think about putting on the Trojans’ red and white one last time.
Lessard plans to keep playing recreationally in beer leagues, but he said it’s hardly enough to satisfy his competitive hunger.
“I’m a guy that’s really competitive, and I’ll definitely miss that aspect of the game,” he said.
Women’s basketball star Brittany Pekar is also finished this year. A six-foot guard, Pekar has led the Trojans in rebounding the last two seasons.
“It will be weird not playing basketball,” said Pekar, who has competed in the sport every year since she was five years old.
Pekar was named to the ACAC all-conference team this season, and was a key player for a Trojans team that went 17-1 in the regular season.
“She is a good all round player but she is a fantastic rebounder,” said head coach Donovan Martin.
“She is also a very tough defender.”
Pekar said she’ll miss her teammates the most, and the friendships she developed while playing with the Trojans.
“It’s like a family here,” said Pekar. “I’m going to miss all the team stuff, being with all the girls on game day and road trips.”
This loss works both ways. The players who continue to compete next season also lose a mentor.
Lessard has been a leader both on and off the ice for the Trojans this season. He’s widely respected in the dressing room, especially with the younger players.
“Lessard is a warrior and a true Trojan,” said Joe Babey, a first-year forward on the team. “He is one of the most competitive and honourable men that I have ever played with, and by far the best captain I have ever played for.”
Lessard looks back at his four years at SAIT as some of his best hockey, and though it didn’t end quite the way he wanted this year he helped the Trojans to three straight ACAC titles in his first three seasons.
“The biggest thing I take is all the life experience and what I have learned from the program,” said Lessard. “I’ve learned a lot of great life lessons.”
In the years to come, Lessard hopes to stay associated with the Trojans’ hockey program through their alumni association.