Calgary, AB — Andrew DeSousa remembers an experience during his five-year Western Hockey League career that would end up leading him down the path to his current career as a police officer in Vancouver, B.C.
When DeSousa played for the Vancouver Giants, he and some of his teammates had the opportunity to go on a ride-along with Vancouver police. They toured the downtown area of East Hastings, which is known for its high concentration of drugs and people suffering from addiction, in hopes of opening their eyes to the dangers of drugs.
Now, as a policeman, himself, DeSousa is the one playing tour guide.
“I just took some guys from the Kamloops Blazers on a tour of East Hastings,” said DeSousa, who played five seasons in the WHL with the Giants, Tri-City Americans, Spokane Chiefs and Regina Pats from 1999-04.
“I’ll also be taking a few other teams on the tour, so it’s like I’ve come full-circle, which is pretty neat,” he said.
Life as a police officer is obviously very different from life as a professional hockey player. However, DeSousa says many of the life skills he developed in his time in the WHL have been helpful in his career in law enforcement.
“I love (law enforcement), it’s a fantastic line of work… it’s like being a part of a team, and the camaraderie is great,” said DeSousa.
“I learned so much from playing hockey other than just the game, itself,” he said. “Spending five years in the WHL, you learn life skills, communication skills, discipline and you learn to deal with situations many other people don’t necessarily face.
“I think those skills help in the real world, especially the path that I’ve chosen in that you face different situations every day, you face adversity, and you have to deal with all sorts of different people and personalities,” he added.
Like most young hockey players in the WHL, DeSousa’s goal, of course, was to play in the National Hockey League. Yet, very few players end up making it to the NHL. Fortunately, the WHL offers a world-class education package to every graduating player, enabling them to pursue a post-secondary education.
For every year a player plays in the WHL, they receive one year of tuition, books and compulsory fees at a post-secondary institution of their choice. For DeSousa, that meant he had five years worth of WHL scholarship funds to pursue his degree.
“There is life after hockey,” he said. “The WHL scholarship is an unbelievable benefit for a young hockey player.
“I spent five years in school and didn’t see a single bill or school expense the entire time, so I was very lucky to have that help from the WHL,” said DeSousa, who earned a Bachelor’s Degree after four years at the University of New Brunswick, and another year with the Justice Institute of British Columbia to obtain police credentials.
Not only did DeSousa get the opportunity to receive a post-secondary education, he was also able to continue playing high-caliber hockey in the CIS. In his time at UNB, DeSousa helped the Varsity Reds men’s hockey team win a national championship in 2007.
“The best hockey I’ve played was in the CIS,” said DeSousa. “Where I played, almost all the guys playing were former Major Junior players, so the level of hockey was excellent…it was fast, very competitive, and a lot of fun.”
Now several years removed from his time in the Western Hockey League, DeSousa looks back fondly on his days riding buses across western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. For DeSousa, playing in the WHL was an experience he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“Just being a part of the WHL was a terrific experience,” he said. “You’re playing in front of thousands of fans every night, you’re exposed to the best junior-aged talent in the world, you play in front of NHL scouts, friends and family, you meet so many people and forge so many strong relationships, and you get to see so many different places.
“It’s just a top-notch experience, overall,” he said.
WHL Scholarship Success Stories
October 20: Part One – Andrew DeSousa (Police Officer)
October 27: Part Two – Commercial Pilot
November 3: Part Three – Engineer
November 3: WHL Scholarship announcement