Skip to content

Determination and perseverance lead Michael Iatridis to U.S. college hockey

Yellowknife’s Michael Iatridis, whose Inuk name is Appakaq, has come a long way to make it to American college hockey. Photo courtesy of Calvin University.

Michael Iatridis, an Inuvialuk born and raised in Yellowknife, is currently in his third year of studies at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was awarded with several scholarships to attend and play college hockey.

He is studying kinesiology, focusing on sport management and business. While there, he also plays Division 1 hockey for the Calvin Knights in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). The 6’1” defenceman has posted a pair of assists in 11 games played this season.

The Calvin Knights ranked 15th nationally in the 2023-2024 hockey season, out of 72 teams. This year they had 21 wins, 9 losses, and one overtime loss during the season and earned themselves a spot at the ACHA Division 1 National Championships taking place this month in St. Louis.

Iatridis, whose Inuk name is Appakaq, has come a long way to make it to American college hockey. Growing up, he was very athletic and loved to play a variety of sports, but he didn’t start playing hockey until he was older. He was a soccer player by age three. He also played recreational baseball during the summer months. Iatridis would also join whatever after-school activities were available, like badminton and tennis.

When he was in grade five, Iatridis signed up for what he thought was floor hockey. He was so excited about playing the sport with his friends at school. When the time came to begin the activity, he realized that it was not floor hockey, it was ice hockey. He was devastated because he didn’t know how to skate and was not able to participate in the activity that year.

Iatridis was so sad when he went home that his mom agreed to sign him up for CanSkate lessons through the Yellowknife Skating Club. The CanSkate group is typically filled with beginner skaters and very young children just starting out. His mother thought that he might attend one or two sessions and feel uncomfortable with all the small children there and change his mind. However, the minute Iatridis got on the ice, he was determined to learn how to skate, and nothing could wipe the smile off of his face.

His mom recalls him being this big kid at 10 years old. At the beginning of the lessons, the group would stand around the middle circle of the ice and do the chicken dance as part of the warm up. Iatridis looked huge out on the ice beside all the other skaters, but that did not deter him from learning to skate. He recalled, “I really wanted to be a part of the hockey world and have the feeling of connectedness with being on a team.”

He practised skating all year and then he was able to sign up for ice hockey the following year. His mom did not know how to dress him in his hockey equipment. Iatridis’s cousin, Cullen McLeod, offered to go with him to his first hockey tryout and help him put on his gear.

At the time, Iatridis’s mom and dad did not know much about the hockey league. They signed him up for the developmental team tryouts, thinking it was beginner hockey. It turned out that the developmental team was the advanced level. Once again, Iatridis ended up in this awkward situation, on the ice with all these advanced skaters zooming around him. As a new skater, he could not keep up with the pace of the other players. However, he did not give up.

He moved down to the house league and spent two years playing in the peewee division, even becoming captain of his team by his second year. Both years, in 2011-12 and 2012-13, he won the 30th anniversary Esso Medals and Certificates of Achievement. In his third year of hockey, Iatridis advanced to the developmental bantam team.

In 2014, he moved to Alberta with his family and had an opportunity to participate in a hockey academy as part of junior high school. During that year, he was able to increase his skill level significantly. He also played for the St. Albert Raiders and won the bantam AA Comets Top Defensive Player of the Year Award. Throughout high school, Iatridis continued to play for the St. Albert Raiders Midget 15 AAA Flyers, AA Crusaders and AA Blues.

Advancing to junior

After high school, he was invited to play for the Red Lake Miners, in Red Lake, Ont., as part of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). After a year and a half, he was traded to the Cochrane Crunch, in Cochrane, Ont., where he completed his third and final year of the CJHL. His last year was played during Covid-19, and it was difficult because all the hockey rules changed, and times were uncertain.

Throughout his years of playing hockey, Iatridis always had a goal in mind of playing American university hockey one day. But, after his last year of the CJHL, he was uncertain if he would continue with hockey and started making plans to attend post-secondary studies. Fortunately, head coach Mike Petrusma of the Calvin Knights Division 1 team reached out to Iatridis during the summer of 2021 and asked him to try out for the team and study at the university.

Iatridis, who wears number 77 on his jersey, said, “It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I am forever grateful that I accepted the challenge and I have been enjoying every moment of it. I get the chance to play hockey, go to university and earn a degree, and most importantly continue to grow as an individual.”

His advice to other young aspiring hockey players is to “stay confident in yourself and trust that all your hard work will pay off. Keep striving and chipping away each day to achieve your goals.”

—By Kinnukana, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Alberta Native News