His was not the typical path to the NHL. But then again, Joel Ward is not a typical hockey player.
UPEI salutes one of its finest as Ward retires from his career as a player in the NHL. Ward is hanging up his skates after an impressive 726 games with the Minnesota Wild, the Nashville Predators, the Washington Capitals, and finally the San Jose Sharks. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UPEI in 2006 and was named an Inspiring Young Alumni in 2016.
One the eve of his retirement, Ward wrote of his unusual career path to the NHL in The Players Tribune.
"When I was 24 years old, I scored 16 goals for the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers in my senior season," wrote Ward. "It was my final year playing college hockey in Canada. Four years of grinding it out, chasing an NHL dream that, with every winter in Charlottetown, seemed further and further away…. If, back then, you would have offered me just one single game in the league, I would have taken it and run. And I know I would have given everything I had in those 60 minutes, even if I knew there weren't any more after."
The citation read when Ward was named an Inspiring Young Alumni mentioned his hockey career, but it went further.
"In 2009, Joel continued to show tremendous leadership when he joined Big Brothers and became a mentor to 12-year-old Malik Johnson, who grew up in a neighbourhood where drug deals and shootings were common. Joel took Malik under his wing, taking him to hockey games and out for pizza, helping him with his homework, and becoming a friend to his whole family. With Joel's help, Malek graduated from Lighthouse Christian School, one of the top private schools in Tennessee—the first of his family to graduate from high school."
As far as Ward has gone in his hockey career, he has never forgotten his time at UPEI. He is a familiar face on Prince Edward Island in the summer—the place he calls his adopted home. He returns to the Island to visit old friends. He will always be a Panther for Life.
Go Panthers Go!
Media contact: Ron Annear, UPEI
(902) 566-0991, firstname.lastname@example.org