Griffins’ Pearson chases degree – and NHL

Photo: Sam Iannamico

by Jason Pearson | AHL On The Beat

In case you missed it, 22-year-old Chase Pearson is spending his rookie season in Grand Rapids working not only to become a reliable and trusty two-way center, but also to complete his undergraduate degree from the University of Maine. A finance degree, to clarify.

For Pearson, a 2015 fifth-round draft selection by Detroit, signs of his on-ice development are easier to spot, despite the presence of five recent Red Wings first-rounders on the roster garnering much of the external attention. He’s played in every game since missing the first four due to injury and contributed in key special-teams situations.

Indications of his financial prowess and near-finished academic endeavors may be more difficult to nail down.

On the obligatory player information form that every player filled out at the team’s media day in early October, Pearson listed Rich Dad Poor Dad as his favorite book. In an interview with a local media personality in November, he casually dropped that he listens to finance podcasts on bus trips. He doesn’t do his homework on the bus – can’t focus, he says. Most guys on the team know he’s still in school. And only occasionally has he missed doing something with the guys for homework, which sometimes earns him affectionate “nerd” jeers.

Pearson turned pro after three years in Orono, leaving him 15 credits shy of his diploma. He declared a major after his sophomore year, when he was named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team. He then proceeded to load up his junior schedule with core classes.

Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

“I had to really be on top of things,” Pearson said. “All the hours I had to spend studying and making sure you understand different concepts, it was worth it. It just comes down to time management. You can really get anything done if you put your head down and focus on it.”

As for turning pro, “It was a tough decision,” he told Griffiti, the Griffins’ game-day magazine, in September. “Right up to the last day, I had the idea in the back of my mind that I might want to stay and get my degree. At the same time, the chance to play in the NHL doesn’t come along very often. As a hockey player, you only have so many games in your body, and when I thought about it from that standpoint, it made the decision a little easier. The Red Wings thought I was ready to go and at the end of the day, I felt the same way.”

While he isn’t staying on the campus where he was a two-time captain, he is still getting his degree by taking online versions of his classes. But why now? A rookie draft pick in a new city in an organization where opportunity is attainable, there’s enough to command his time.

“The biggest thing is I want to get it done and have it,” he said. “That way I don’t have to worry about it in the future years. With the spare time we have, it just makes sense for me to get it done now.”

He says he has been his own biggest cheerleader to finish school, although his dad, Scott, who played 292 games in the NHL during a 12-year pro career, and his coaches at Maine have been supportive of him.

This semester, which finished up on Thursday, he knocked out six credits by taking courses in music, American government and English – essentially a creative-writing class. If he sat down with no distractions and focused, he was able to complete his assignments in less than a day. Although teammates live next door, he doesn’t have a roommate, which can come in handy when he needs quiet study time.

“The biggest thing is just pre-planning,” Pearson said. “I usually dedicate time earlier in the week when we’re at home practicing. So I’ll pre-plan and be able to get stuff done earlier in the week, that way when game times come, I don’t have anything to think about. I can think about hockey and hockey only.”

Pearson still has a required financial derivatives course, which he plans to take either next semester or during the condensed term in May that Maine offers. But otherwise, he has electives to fill. His agenda for next semester, which begins Jan. 21, is tentatively slated for three classes and then one more in May during the compacted schedule. He says he will be done before next season starts.

“When you’re a pro hockey player, you’re making sure that you’re focused,” Griffins assistant coach Todd Krygier said. “You’re studying the game, you’re watching hockey games and you’re watching video. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of energy. And then when guys are finishing up school, they have to make sure that they’re allocating their time properly and managing their time to be able to finish what they started in college. I think Pearson has great qualities – character, work ethic, time management – and I think it’s admirable he wants to finish his degree and finish something that he started.”

Krygier is in his first year in Grand Rapids, looking after the forwards and the power play. He is uniquely qualified to speak about college, being the father of five Division I athletes.

Photo: Mark Newman

As far as the finance route goes, Pearson always had an interest in numbers but wasn’t a fan of math growing up about 30 miles north of Atlanta in Alpharetta, Ga. As he got older, he still disliked the superfluous equations, but realized the important role numbers play in every part of life and the applications they have. Particularly how they can relate to his own decisions.

“If you can understand numbers in different things, you don’t necessarily have to know what derivatives are unless you are trading stocks or options, but just general information about investing in index funds, real estate and different types of investment vehicles to get you to retirement. At the end of the day, you want to be smart with your money because it’s not going to last forever unless you pre-plan. I want to be informed and know what options I have and how I can get myself to the best place possible financially when I’m playing and when I’m done playing.”

A self-described “book nerd” who is currently flipping through Principles by Ray Dalio, Pearson spends his down time – like those frequent four-hour bus trips to Chicago, Rockford or Milwaukee – absorbing as much information on finance as he can get his hands or headphones on. He loves podcasts and hearing different opinions, listening to, among a wide variety of others, Listen Money Matters and episodes by Robert Kiyosaki and Dave Ramsey.

“There’s so much knowledge in this sector of the world that you will probably never know. Whatever knowledge I can get my hands on, I’m usually trying to understand that and see how I can apply to my life and how it can help me better myself as a person and financially in the future.”