Zach Hodder knows a thing or two about lacing up in a junior hockey rink.
After all, the former defenseman skated for five different teams – the Vancouver Giants, Saskatoon Blades, Prince Albert Raiders, Medicine Hat Tigers, and Moose Jaw Warriors – over a five-year career in the Western Hockey League that spanned from 2009 to 2014.
That experience, combined with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Communication and Media Studies from Royal Roads University, made the B.C. native a natural fit to join the WHL offices as its Manager of Player Development following his playing days.
From lessons in the classroom, to life lessons learned in the locker room, each contributes to Hodder excelling in his new role.
“A pretty big part of junior hockey prepared me for when I got into school,” Hodder told Junior Hockey Magazine as part of its CHL Leaders segment. “It teaches you time management right off the top. You’ve really got to be smart with your time and do your due diligence before the fun.”
For Hodder, an unfortunate injury ultimately served as a silver lining that inspired him to plan his future path.
“I had a few shoulder surgeries when I was playing and then I got hurt one more time. Once that happened I knew it was probably over for me, but from that point on I really enjoyed playing,” Hodder said. “It was a lot of fun, there was no pressure of going pro, and I knew I had my scholarship guaranteed from the WHL, so I just enjoyed my last few years of junior before moving to school.
“Having the guaranteed scholarship that the WHL offers made the choice a lot easier. Once I knew hockey wasn’t going to work out for me, there weren’t a bunch of stresses, like how I’ll pay for it and where the funds will come from. The WHL makes it so easy to access the scholarship – it’s one form and everything is paid for.”
Now in his current role in player development, Hodder focuses on a portfolio of support programs, ensuring that players know about and have access to an array of valuable services, including mental health programs, emergency assistance through a partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, and more.
“When we look at player development, we’re not just looking at developing a hockey player. We’re also looking at developing a person,” Hodder said. “My job is to make sure that our players understand the value and have access to these services, as well as meeting with potential players and giving them the information and education they need to make the most important decision of their life up until that point – where they will play junior hockey – and that they know all of the benefits and opportunities of the WHL.”
Listen to Zach Hodder’s full interview with Junior Hockey Magazine here.