The Sault College Athletics Department held its first annual Scholarship Breakfast Tuesday, the keynote speaker Marty Turco, Sault native and former Dallas Stars goaltender.
“I’m totally enthralled with what the Sault College athletic program is doing. I personally was a student athlete (having played on an NCAA scholarship at the University of Michigan before moving on to the NHL), and I think it’s paramount to grow the college’s scholarship program, not just for the success of the school, but for the society in which we live,” Turco said, speaking to SooToday.
“Student athletes are some of the hardest workers we have in our workforce today. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to do well in school and perform at a high level.”
“Postsecondary education is expensive. A lot of students wouldn’t be able to continue their education without scholarships. The combination of education and sports was vital for my success professionally, and after I retired, for the things I’m doing today,” said Turco, now Dallas Stars Foundation president and part owner of Kingsville Brewery.
Tuesday’s breakfast event was a fundraiser, aimed at generating funds to provide scholarships for Sault College student athletes.
Sault College currently has eight Cougars teams, including hockey, basketball and soccer (men’s and women’s), cross country and curling.
“We’ve never done any fundraisers for Sault College athletics. This fundraiser today is going to support scholarships we’re going to give to student athletes, and this will help us recruit better athletes to Sault College,” said Paul Orazietti, the college’s manager of athletics.
“Today’s event is going to be a big one, with 300 people here for the breakfast and a silent auction to boot. This event could generate, potentially, $15,000, and we hope to grow that every year, and that tops up the money we’re able to give to athletes in terms of scholarships.”
The maximum amount of money available to Sault College student athletes through the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) is $3,000 per student per year.
“We have 150 student athletes, so that would be about $450,000 we could give away in scholarships if we had that amount. At this point, we’re clearly nowhere near that. We’re trying to work ourselves more toward the $100,000 range, and that’s where this event and other events throughout the year come in to build that number up,” Orazietti said.
“We’re working to create a culture.”
“The best example of what we want to be is what our hockey team is. A team that recruits hard, a team that brings in good players, a team that’s really well coached, a team that’s dominating right now in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association),” Orazietti said.
The Sault College Cougars men’s hockey team beat Grand Valley State to win the ACHA’s Division 3 2018-2019 championship, moving up to Division 2 next season.
Orazietti said because the Cougars hockey team is within the ACHA, its players are not allowed to receive scholarships, but some of the funds raised by the college for the team will go instead toward offsetting the cost of equipment and travel.
As for other varsity sports, Orazietti estimated 25 of Sault College’s 150 athletes are currently receiving scholarships.
“There are more challenges in soccer in the OCAA, we’re further away from the centre of a lot of great basketball athletes compared to southern Ontario, but that’s what we’re going to try and overcome, and one way to overcome that is being able to offer full scholarships to all of our kids. The more money you put in your war chest, the easier it becomes to recruit athletes.”
“It was fantastic to have Marty here. He’s a guy you always want to cheer for because you know he’s from the Sault and he’s accomplished great things,” Orazietti said.
Among the athletes in attendance at Tuesday’s event was Michaela Martella, a Sault College business student and member of the college’s women’s soccer team.
“It's a huge stress reliever,” Martella said of her involvement in varsity athletics.
“When you’re really busy in college, with exams, just knowing you can go to practice for an hour and release your stress, or go play your game and not focus on anything else, that’s really nice.”
“I didn’t think I would ever be in postsecondary sports, but I would say to others ‘go for it and give it your best shot,’” Martella said.
“It was just really inspirational to see that Marty came from the Sault, just like us, and started as a varsity postsecondary athlete, and to see where he’s made it to.”