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The Next Chapter

By Brandon Gwidt, 01/22/14, 7:15PM CST


Former Gambler (and Husky) Prepares for Life After Hockey

By: Brandon Gwidt (Assistant Media Relations Coordinator/ Broadcaster Green Bay Gamblers)

Article Contributed by: Green Bay Gamblers Prospects Magazine

For former Green Bay Gambler Derek LaPoint, hockey has been more than just a game it’s been a way of life.  His hockey resume includes 2006 Wisconsin High School State Player of the Year honors, 2007 All-USHL First Team honors, hockey scholarship to the University of North Dakota, and hearing his name called at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Florida Panthers.  Hockey has also brought pain, as LaPoint suffered a gruesome injury that threatened to end his hockey career during his sophomore campaign at North Dakota.  The same injury would put an end to a promising career on the ice only a few years later.  With the skates and stick put away, LaPoint now focuses on life after hockey.

A recent graduate of the University of North Dakota, LaPoint is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Community Development.  The same drive and determination that LaPoint displayed on the ice, has carried over to the classroom.

“My success on the ice has helped a lot,” says LaPoint.  “With everything I have gone through, all the accomplishments and the obstacles I have had to overcome, the one thing I’ve kept with me is that I have never been satisfied with where I am at.  I am always looking to improve and get better. It has really helped me build toward my future.”

LaPoint credits his parents for instilling in him a positive mindset.  The desire to be the best in all facets in his life is what drives LaPoint. “That mindset was instilled in me from my parents.  Never be satisfied and always know you can do more. That is what has made me strive to do bigger and better things.”

LaPoint’s mental state would be tested his sophomore year at North Dakota.  The former Gambler suffered a gruesome leg injury when he was checked awkwardly into the boards in a game against Minnesota State.  For LaPoint getting healthy and returning to the ice was the biggest obstacle he would face in his young life.

“Looking at the injury at the time it happened, my mindset was to do anything and everything I could to get back on the ice. Now looking back no doubt it was tough.”

The doctors and trainers told LaPoint that he would not be able to walk for seven to eight months.  He was walking in three months.  LaPoint not only credits his determination to return to the ice, but also his support system.

“I had great support.  My fiancé, who was my girlfriend at the time, she had to deal with a lot throughout my recovery. In addition my family and the trainers at UND, I can’t say enough about the support I had around me.”
Many thought that LaPoint would never play hockey again, but he proved them wrong.  LaPoint returned to the UND line-up the next season, appearing in 43 games.  Following his collegiate career, LaPoint would go on to play in the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League.  However, LaPoint’s career would be cut short when he re-aggravated his injury.

“It’s been a struggle dealing with the injury long-term.  I have a titanium rod in my leg, which is pretty nasty. I couldn’t recover from the injury this time so it took me away from the game. It left me in a place that a lot of hockey players get put in and wonder, ‘What now?’”

With his hockey career over, LaPoint was on to the next stage of his life.  LaPoint found himself in Indianapolis, Indiana where his fiancée was pursuing her master’s degree.  The move to Indianapolis also brought LaPoint back to the game of hockey.

“When I moved to Indianapolis I made some contacts. The Skojdt family, who are the owners of the Indiana Ice in the USHL, hooked me up with the Bantam AAA Junior Indiana Ice team which I helped coach. It was phenomenal, I had a great time with it, we made it to the national tournament and we had a great group of kids.”

In addition to coaching LaPoint was hired for an internship in the town of Speedway, Indiana where he was the director of housing and community engagement.

After a year in Indianapolis, LaPoint returned to the University of North Dakota to pursue his master’s degree.

“One thing led to another and I was able to make some contacts at UND, and they told me to apply for graduate school. They also said they might have some funding for me, and next thing you know I was offered a full-tuition waiver so my entire master’s degree was covered which is pretty rare. It was an opportunity I could not refuse.”

Being a student-athlete at UND, LaPoint has been able to take what he learned in those four years and apply it to earning his master’s degree in urban planning and community development.

“It’s very different going from being a student-athlete to now just a full-time student. When playing hockey I did have that commitment every day where I would be at the rink from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Now being in graduate school, I go to class, I work on schoolwork in my free time, and it’s a really different pace. Even though the school is harder I don’t see it as much of a demand as when I was playing hockey.”

It also marks the first time since his youth hockey days that LaPoint has been able to focus solely on school. “I’ve really been able to focus just on school. My goal is to graduate in a year and half, which is a semester ahead of the game. Being a student-athlete helped me prepare for all of this. I don’t remember a time where it was just academics, even since elementary school I was always focused on hockey.”

While LaPoint’s main focus is on school, he still has great passion for the game of hockey. “Coaching is definitely something I want to get into in the future.  I have had the opportunity to help out with a high school team here in North Dakota, but with my school schedule and having classes in the afternoon, it is tough to commit to anything.”  

As he looks back at his career, LaPoint may ask himself from time to time “What If”?  But at the end of the day he has no regrets. “I still feel the injury every day. It is something that will probably be with me for the rest of my life. It’s tough to look back and ask yourself what if that wouldn’t have happened. That being said I can’t have any regrets.  I played the game as hard as I could have. To be able to play for five years after an injury like that was an accomplishment on its own and I take that to heart. I am just thankful for the opportunities and success I did have.”

With his playing days behind him, LaPoint now looks to write the next chapter in his life. “I am getting married this summer and my fiancé is graduating in May, and she will be looking for a job in Genetic Counseling, which will require her to reside in a bigger city. When I finish, hopefully by next Christmas, I will be able to move by her and find a job. Whether that is in my field or coaching hockey I am not sure, but I for sure want to help out in any part of the game possible.”

One thing is certain the next chapter in LaPoint’s life will be one of success and happiness.

Player Profile: Derrick LaPoint
Hometown: Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Two-time All-State Wisconsin High School Hockey
2006 Eau Claire North Huskies Team MVP
2006 Wisconsin High School State Player of the Year
2006 NHL Draft Pick- Florida Panthers 4th round 116th overall
2007 First Team All-USHL
2007 USHL All-Rookie Team
Four year career at the University of North-Dakota
7 goals 37 assists
Professional Hockey
    2011-2012 Reading Royals: ECHL
     Syracuse Crunch: AHL
Peoria Rivermen: AHL
    51 GP 2 goals 8 assists- 10 pts (combined stats)