Former pro hockey player has a goal — his doctorate
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
There’s more to athletes than their love and dedication for the sport they play.
That is the message that Jay Harrison shares with the athletes he works with in his consulting practice. Most people know Harrison from his time in the National Hockey League with the Toronto Maple Leafs (2005-09), Carolina Hurricanes (2009-14) and Winnipeg Jets (2014-15), but few know he loves to play the fiddle … or that he is pursuing his Ph.D. in Performance Psychology in Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies.
Harrison said his dedication to his education and other interests helped his hockey career.
“I tell my story to young athletes that education actually allowed me to be the best player I could be. It didn’t take away from that and my passion for music and time invested in that,” he said. “Those things didn’t make me less of a hockey player, they actually made me more of one because they all facilitated to my expression of who I was, and the more I resonated and identified, the better I felt about myself and the more comfortable I felt in my own skin and being myself, which is all necessary to perform at the highest level.”
The Toronto native, who received his bachelor’s degree from Athabasca (Alberta) University and a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counsel from Capella University, went wherever his hockey career took him, whether it be in his hometown, the United States or Europe. But after he retired from hockey in 2016, did a residency as a clinical mental health counselor in Canada and started a consulting practice, Harrison, his wife and four children made North Carolina their home.
“I realized that I can kind of set up my office where ever I like, and North Carolina was a familiar place that we’d always considered going back to,” he said. “I’m glad to be back. Most people are shocked to hear that, being a Canadian and all that, but I really like it here.”
So how did GCU’s doctoral program catch Harrison’s eye? There were several things that made it stand out.
“I like to think that I have a pretty good feel, considering at some level all of my degrees were completed with some form of distance education,” he said. “I really liked the structure, the format of how the program was developed and was being implemented. There was obviously something specific to performance psychology I felt was incredibly fitting to my pursuits, where performance psychology I see as a component not just about making individuals better but making them more holistically well.
“I also was attracted to the idea of how we begin the dissertation process on day one and how it runs concurrently with the course material. It seemed like an ideal fit.”
With his first residency finished, Harrison still has some time before he completes his doctoral journey. He is enjoying the experience.
“I’m incredibly impressed with the facility, and the resources available are really conducive to getting stuff done,” he said. “You can tell that they really take care of their students and the students take care of them.”
Harrison doesn’t have any specific plans for how he’s going to use his Ph.D. when he finishes the program. First, he’s looking at how he can benefit from what he’s learning in the doctoral program.
“I’m certainly looking to use this degree, first and foremost, as a learning experience to make a contribution to my field that I think is warranted, important and critical for the applied side of work to inform the best practices and help contribute to the body of knowledge,” he said. “Then with that, continue to build and grow and explore opportunities that might come with that, whatever those might be.
“There’s certainly no definitive lines yet, but I recognize that having this degree and the experience that this degree affords me will generate other opportunities to explore, to further expand my scope and reach in the aims of helping others.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]