Just like his father 30 years ago, Brett Crossley is living the experience of a student athlete, balancing his studies in management with playing for the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s hockey team.
Crossley carefully considered his options after playing five years of junior hockey, four of them with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and one with the Yarmouth Mariners of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League (MHL). At the end of his junior career, the “stars aligned” for him to choose Dal, the former stomping grounds of both his parents.
The draw of the Tigers
“I knew that Dal would be the place to be from all perspectives,” says first-year Crossley. “From being a good student and knowing what kind of education is provided, to knowing Head Coach [Chris] Donnelly and what I could get in my development as a hockey player as part of the team, it seemed like the most well-rounded place.”
The Cole Harbour native’s junior career was a strong one, both on and off the ice. He, along with his brother Brady, helped Yarmouth to an MHL championship last spring, only losing twice throughout three playoff rounds. Brett got 62 points in 50 games during that season. In his time with the Mooseheads, he was twice honoured by the team for combined athletic and academic performance. Crossley is glad to do well in his studies because he knows that hockey can only go so long, “no matter who you are.”
“My parents have always taught me that education is important and that no matter what you do in life, it will be backed by a proper education,” says Crossley.
His father, Brad, had no doubt that Brett would thrive in his transition to Dal, both as a student and an athlete.
“Brett has had some great coaching [in his career], which made his transition to this level of hockey much better than I expected. He’s a factor nearly every game, and it’s been a pleasure to see him involved and grabbing the bull by the horns,” Brad says of his son’s first two months at Dal. “He’s a pretty intelligent young man. He’s good in the classroom, but he knows more about the game now than I ever have.”
A familiar face
Brad served as head coach of the Tigers men’s hockey team in 2007-08 and later worked with Donnelly as an assistant coach from 2014 to 2018. His connections with the team go back even further: he played for the Tigers from 1984 to 1986. He never misses the opportunity to see his old team when they play locally, whether at home or at Saint Mary’s University.
“Being a part of a sports team for Dal allowed me to be more involved in the school and its culture. My teammates were my brothers,” Brad says. “If I wasn’t in class, I was in the dressing room or the weight room at the rink.”
When he was playing for Dal, the Tigers’ home ice was on-campus, at the Dalhousie Memorial Arena. It was demolished in 2012 to make room for the construction of LeMarchant Place, next to Wickwire Field. The hockey team now calls the Halifax Forum home.
Brett got to know the team and facilities quite well while Brad coached. He spent a lot of time at the rink, either at games or being around the team in the dressing room or during training. He believes that the opportunity to “soak it all in” while young, and having his father by his side, is now paying off in his transition to university.
“Having that background made joining this team a bit more comfortable. I had a strong idea of what I was getting myself into,” Brett says.
On the ice, he fits right in. At the time of writing, he’s fifth on the team in points.
“I haven’t given him much advice — his teammates have helped make his transition seamless as well,” said Brad about Brett’s experience with the Tigers so far. “They teach him really well, and in a positive way. This team cares a lot, and they come to work every day. You won’t find a team that works harder in the [Atlantic University Sport league] than the Dalhousie Tigers.”