Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 1
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
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RHODES WARRIOR: Princeton University men’s hockey player Landis Stankievech looks to pass the puck in recent action. Excelling on the ice and in the classroom, Stankievech, was recently awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Stankievech, a Trochu, Alberta native, was one of 11 Canadian winners of the prestigious fellowship and the 20th Princeton athlete to be so honored.

Balancing Hockey, Academics to Perfection, PU’s Stankievech Earns Rhodes Scholarship

Bill Alden

Landis Stankievech got a bit of a comeuppance in the fall of 2004 as he adjusted to the academic rigors at Princeton University.

“On my first physics quiz, I got nine questions right out of 20,” recalled Stankievech.

“I realized things were at a different level and that I couldn’t do things like I used to.”

The Trochu, Alberta native, though, has given a lot of right answers since that inauspicious start.

Stankievech, who plays for the Princeton men’s hockey team, won the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence in 2005 and 2006 and the Manfred Pyka Memorial Physics Prize in 2005.

He also gained honors for the hockey team, being named as a District II Academic All-America last year and as a two-time member of the All-ECAC All-Academic team.

Recently, Stankievech earned the ultimate academic accolade, getting awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, one of 11 Canadian winners of the prestigious fellowship.

For Stankeivech, hockey and academics have been intertwined since he was a youngster.

“I think I was about six years old when I took up hockey; I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t playing” said Stankievech, who is the 20th Princeton athlete to receive a Rhodes Scholarship.

“My dad played and I had watched him. I think every Canadian kid tries hockey. I guess I always enjoyed school. I have always worked hard; I was never one of those kids who could test off the cuff. I needed to be putting in time to be doing well.”

After graduating from the Trochu Valley School, Stankievech took a bit of a respite from the classroom as he played junior hockey for the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).

In Stankievech’s view, his two years in the juniors was a necessary step in his preparation for Princeton.

“I don’t think I would have been ready for college hockey,” said Stankievech, who did some tutoring and took some college courses during his juniors stint. “I needed to get stronger mentally and physically.”

Once Stankievech was ready for college, he narrowed his choice to Harvard and Princeton.

“My only fly down was to Princeton and Harvard,” said Stankievech, who also considered Colgate, Dartmouth, and Brown.

“Princeton was just amazing; I fell in love with it. The guys on the team were awesome; the campus was beautiful. The vibe I got was amazing. As a small town person, I liked the idea that you could walk everywhere.”

Upon arriving at Princeton, Stankievech had to walk before he could run in both hockey and in the classroom.

“In hockey, it was the typical thing you hear, the players were smarter, faster, and stronger,” said Stankievech.

“In school, I had to study so I’d know the material, not just be satisfied that I had seen something. You couldn’t work things out on tests, you needed a deeper understanding of the material. I had to do a lot of practice problems.”

In order to excel at both pursuits, Stankievech has kept to a grueling daily schedule.

A typical day for Stankievech starts with class at 10 a.m. and ends with him wrapping up his studies around midnight.

In between, there are two and half hours of class, seven hours of study, and two and a half hours of rink time with meals squeezed in between school and practice.

“It’s been eating, hockey, and school,” said Stankievech with a weary chuckle.

Stankievech decided to add the pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship to his busy schedule upon the advice of one of his teammates.

“During my sophomore year, a teammate said that I should apply when I was a senior,” said Stankievech, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major.

“I just filed that away. I looked into it at the end of my junior year and I thought it fit well with who I am and what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

While the Rhodes Scholarship process is infamous for its grueling, intimidating interviews that culminate the selection procedure, Stankievech wasn’t fazed.

“The interviews were enjoyable,” said Stankievech, who is one of 20 collegiate hockey players named as finalists for the men’s hockey division of the 2007-08 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award which is presented annually in eight sports and focuses on the “Four C’s” of classroom, character, community, and competition. “They were not adversarial; they challenged you and pushed you.”

Finding out that he had been selected for the Rhodes sparked a reaction tantamount to scoring a winning goal.

“I was very excited,” recalled Stankievech. “I just pumped my fist; a lot of things went through my mind.”

Stankievech plans to utilize the scholarship to study philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford.

“I see the plan of study as the modern alternative to the classics; it will give me a good perspective on trying to solve issues in the world,” explained Stankievech, who plans to get into academics or work for a think tank regarding environmental issues after his time at Oxford.

“I see it as building on engineering but the technical, arithmetical analysis is still applicable.”

Whatever he pursues, Stankievech knows that he will have the support of his teammates.

“They were pumped; they encouraged me at each step of the process,” said Stankievech, recalling the team’s reaction to his getting awarded the Rhodes. “They are really positive; we are like a family on the team.”

With the Tigers bringing a 5-7 overall record and a 4-4 mark in ECAC Hockey League play into 2008, Stankeivech will focus his efforts on helping his hockey family excel.

“We have had some highs and lows this season,” noted Stankievech, a 5’11, 195-pound forward who has 18 points in 94 career appearances for the Tigers.

“Beating Cornell at Cornell was great but then we have had some rough patches. The losses to Notre Dame before the break were a downer. We just need to recommit to playing Princeton hockey and help the young guys understand what it means to play that way.”

In making that commitment, Stankievech will utilize the approach that has served him well in the classroom.

“You face pressure situations in both; you have to deal with certain stresses,” said Stankievech.

“I’d like to think that each has a positive effect on the other. Both are intense activities and I have tried to do my best at both.”

And few have balanced those pursuits at Princeton any better than Stankievech.

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