For a lawyer in the making, a prolific hockey career is nearing its final days.
For Riley Whitlock, the men’s hockey team’s starting goaltender and a second-year law student, the challenge of balancing schoolwork and the sport he loves is multiplied exponentially.
Finishing up his fifth and final year of CIS eligibility, Whitlock came to study law at Queen’s after completing his undergrad in commerce and playing three seasons for the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
The son of a lawyer, Whitlock will look to enter the field in the Calgary-based firm Norton-Rose in corporate law — but not before completing his Gaels career.
“He’s a guy that’s an absolute pleasure to coach,” Gaels head coach Brett Gibson said. “He’s going to be a lawyer [and] … the kid doesn’t miss practice.”
A Calgary native, Whitlock began skating at the age of two and played for the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques and Saint John Sea Dogs from 2004 to 2006.
At 19 years old, Whitlock realized his dream of making the NHL was fading and chose the collegiate path. At 5’10”, he’s generally considered too small to be a professional goaltender.
“I think everyone grows up in Canada wanting to eventually reach the NHL,” Whitlock said. “When you hit 19, you start to realize it’s not going to happen — guys aren’t talking to you after games, scouts aren’t there as much for you.
“I realized I could try and go about [playing hockey] and continuing my education.”
A Calgary Flames fan from birth, Whitlock idolized then-Montreal Canadiens netminder Patrick Roy’s success and winning attitude.
He would eventually hone his skill under Roy’s former goalie coach, François Allaire. A self-proclaimed hybrid goaltender, Whitlock uses his agility and positioning to keep pucks out of the net.
“You talk to your coach about different plays you want to do and so you’re never really stagnant on one style,” Whitlock said. “You always want to try and grow and see what other people’s ideas are on things and try and bring as many tools as you can.”
Whitlock’s been a workhorse in the crease during his tenure at Queen’s. In two seasons, he’s started 52 games and stopped 1,573 shots, averaging 30 saves per outing.
His dazzling back-to-back .915 and .918 save percentages are testaments to his ability to handle a heavy workload.
His ever-solid performance has been even more essential this season. Whitlock is seen as a “big brother” in the dressing room, providing veteran leadership to a young, inconsistent squad.
“I really enjoy being the guy to go to — it’s something that I thrive on,” Whitlock said. “[Hockey] is a team game, but you need to have a goalie that can enjoy the pressure of having to play really well in big games.”
Whitlock’s playing career is nearing the end of the road, but hockey will never leave his blood. He dreams to one day join an NHL franchise in an upper management position, like general manager or president of hockey operations.
“When [hockey’s] been part of your life for 25 years, you’re never going to all of a sudden drop it and give it up,” Whitlock said. “I think it will never leave my life at all.”
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