Meet Matt Anholt, current captain of the UAA hockey team. He’s a top-tier athlete, having played every game since arriving in 2014. He led the team in assists and points this season, and was second in both columns last year, earning him two WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.
But he’s an academic leader too. Studying criminal justice, with a minor in real estate, Matt was one of 15 Seawolves on the WHCA All-Academic Team this year (the second-most recognitions in program history).
His success hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Matt has an unwavering commitment to improvement,” said his head coach, Matt Thomas. “Since he arrived on campus he has made it a personal goal to constantly improve and that has been evident in his success both on the ice and in the classroom.”
Raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Matt is small-town humble about his accomplishments. Sporting a ‘Prairie Proud’ sweatshirt, he’s quick to praise those around him. He was fortunate to get the captain honor, he says. He’s been fortunate to have academic support from professors, too. He’s thankful for academic advice from former UAA teammates, and he’s quick to share those helpful tips today. Not because he’s captain, but because he’s a good dude. “Myself, being a captain, doesn’t even factor into that,” he said.
Like many Canadians, Matt always played hockey. Hockey, in fact, was the family business; his dad Peter has coached over 1,000 games in the Western Hockey League (Canada’s top program for players 16-20). “I’ve been around hockey my entire life,” Matt noted.
When he aged out of junior hockey — he previously played for the West Kelowna Warriors in the British Columbia Junior League — he set sights on college. The opportunity to compete and study, he says, was “extremely enticing.” He hopes to pursue hockey after graduation, and a career after that. “It’s extremely beneficial to be able to do both [at UAA],” he noted.
As a Canadian citizen in the justice program, Matt enjoys bringing an outsider eye to his classes on the rights, amendments and landmark trials that shaped the U.S. “I find all the constitutional and civil liberties classes … very, very interesting,” he said. And with a real estate minor, he’s setting the stage for a post-hockey future. Options are open, he says, but his grades are good enough that law school is on the table. “That’s an option that really interests me.”
Like all student-athletes, his grades are more impressive when you consider his schedule: 8 a.m. at the rink, practice until noon, then classes on-and-off the rest of the day (with three weekly workouts scattered throughout).
“Then, obviously, you still have to do homework. And I like to eat too, so that’s also got to fall into it,” he joked. “It can be pretty hectic. You definitely have to take advantage of those Sundays to do homework.”
That’s not always easy, either. Most Sundays during the season, the team is returning from five- or six-day road trips.
“Obviously, that’s a lot of classes missed,” Matt noted. But he’s got the lifestyle down to a routine. “A trick I learned when I was a freshmen from some of the older guys is to make a little checklist of things you have to do when you’re on the road.” That way, he says, “you’re not forgetting anything when you get back and aren’t hit by a train of homework.”
Another helpful tip? Upperclassmen encouraged him to take as many classes as possible, especially in summers. “I would have probably tried to take the least classes possible when I got here,” he admits, but he’s glad he listened. Now, Matt’s on track for a simple senior season, with six classes remaining over two semesters. “Academically, I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of taking more classes before and having a nice easy schedule,” he said.
Lessons on leadership
After graduation, whether he ends up playing offense on ice or arguing defense in court, Matt’s UAA experience — particularly his hockey team leadership — will serve him well.
“When choosing leaders, we often defer to the most experienced individuals,” explained Coach Thomas, but that wasn’t the case with Matt. “[He’s] shown the qualities that embody a leader as a freshman and has been a part of our leadership group since his sophomore year. That is a remarkable feat for someone that young.”
Matt says he’s learned a lot about himself through the captain role. “It can be extremely difficult,” he noted, adding every day has highs and lows over the course of a season. “If you’re lucky enough to get put in a leadership role, in sports or anywhere, it definitely will help you moving forward in your life in every way.”
But that’s down the road. For now, he’s buckled into the last two months of the semester, making the most of this travel-free stretch to study and train.
“It’s been a fun ride.”
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement