Colorado College is the perfect place to be a Division I athlete while simultaneously having many other aspects to your identity, according to sophomore forward Tanner Ockey. Ockey, who grew up in Canada skating daily, always dreamt of playing collegiate hockey. But throughout the course of his journey, a unique lifestyle and an emphasis on family encouraged Ockey to acquire a range of passions beyond the ice.
Ockey was raised Mormon, but not “molly Mormon,” as in his family never fit the “cookie cutter image” of a Mormon family. Still, Ockey grew up attending church, singing in the choir, and abstaining from playing sports every Sunday. It wasn’t until he started playing hockey competitively in his later teenage years that Ockey had to break the “no sports on Sunday” rule. To this day though, Ockey still goes to church on Sundays and holds family commitment as one of his top priorities.
Initially, when Ockey first left the nest to play juniors at the age of 17, being away from his family was difficult. Since coming to college, though, Ockey has adjusted to being away, but still holds family as something of vital importance to him.
In fact, family commitment is partially how Ockey ended up at CC in the first place. Ockey’s grandfather played hockey for CC 50 years ago and was a captain, no less, wearing #10 on his uniform. Fast forward five decades and now Ockey skates the ice repping the same jersey and the same number. “I was always interested in CC because of my grandpa,” Ockey said. “But I never thought I would actually play here.”
During Ockey’s second year of junior hockey (he played three years in total—one during his senior year of high school and two between high school and college), while playing in the showcase tournament in Alberta, CC Assistant Hockey Coach R.J. Enga stepped into the arena to scout the tournament. Coincidentally, Enga, who was wearing a Tigers sweatshirt, locked eyes with a man wearing a CC cap, and the two raised their eyebrows, gravitated towards each other, and began talking. The man in the cap turned out to be Ockey’s grandfather. It was during this random encounter that Enga found out about Tanner, and immediately became interested in recruiting him. “[Coach Enga] thought it was pretty cool when he found out my grandpa also played here and I like the idea of having the alumni thing going on,” Ockey said. “So on the spot of meeting R.J., I committed to coming to CC.”
Ockey enjoys that his grandpa attended CC 50 years ago, because he comes back to the school to visit often. “It’s funny walking with him around campus and seeing how much things have stayed the same and how much other things have changed,” Ockey said. “It’s also cool hearing his stories and getting his perspective on life.”
The importance of family inspired Ockey’s choice to play hockey at CC, and it also inspired several other of Ockey’s passions. “I grew up skiing with my immediate and extended family on family vacations,” Ockey said. “So whenever I’m on a ski hill, I forget about all other stresses and am reminded of amazing memories with my family.” For physical health reasons, the hockey team has a strict ‘no skiing during season’ policy, so Ockey always looks forward to the off-season when he can join his friends on the mountains.
Beyond his love for skiing, Ockey also loves hiking, mountain biking, and playing music during his free time: activities that are fair game when he is training for hockey. One of Ockey’s favorite post-practice activities is playing guitar with friends. “I don’t ever play for people, although I always wished I did,” Ockey admitted. “I would have liked to be in the concert venue but I think nerves kept me from getting into it.”
Ockey’s love for music also comes from his family. “My sister has been singing her whole life,” Ockey said. “She’s actually an up-and-coming country music artist in Nashville right now.” His parents and his sister have been singing around him his whole life, and they all sang in church together every Sunday.
Ockey’s favorite genre of music is classic country, but when asked if that’s what he listens to before getting onto the ice, he laughed and shook his head. “I prefer to listen to rock or EDM to get me in a workout mood,” Ockey said. “But my favorite song right now is “Give it Away” by George Straight.”
To add to Ockey’s well-roundedness, he is also semi-fluent in French. Ockey went to a French immersion school from kindergarten through sixth grade, then took French language class through high school, and even signed up for French at CC last year. “I can understand everything but I can’t speak fluently,” Ockey said humbly. “But I could definitely survive in France if I had to.”
It’s this humble attitude that makes Ockey so successful in life, according to Enga. “Tanner is humble, hardworking, and appreciative,” Enga said. “Because of this he receives a lot of respect from people within the program.”
And Ockey definitely loves the hockey program. “We are treated so well. I feel so lucky,” Ockey said. “The feeling I get when I step on the ice… it just feels like home.” To Ockey, the greatest single feeling is receiving a puck and scoring. “It is like nothing else,” he said.
While Ockey adores hockey and hopes to play professionally one day, he expressed interest in other options as well. “I consider myself a hockey player first when I think about who I am, but I’m much more than that too,” Ockey said. “If playing hockey professionally doesn’t work out, I want to work in the family company.”
More than anything else, making his parents proud is Ockey’s #1 goal. “I’m so fortunate to have parents that I can look up to that are selfless, generous, and inspiring,” Ockey said. “They make me want to be the best I can be.”