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Harvard grad Killorn makes mom proud with degree, Lightning

The Lightning's Alex Killorn, center, is one of the few Harvard grads in the NHL. He graduated in 2012. Photo courtesy of Alex Killorn.
The Lightning's Alex Killorn, center, is one of the few Harvard grads in the NHL. He graduated in 2012. Photo courtesy of Alex Killorn.
Published May 22, 2015


On the wall of Alex Killorn's bedroom in his childhood home in Montreal, there's plenty of memorabilia.

There are the pucks commemorating his first NHL goal and assist, and one of his sticks.

But to his mother, Cindy, a former teacher, the most prized item is a framed degree from Harvard that says Alex Joseph Killorn graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of arts degree in government/political science.

"I think she's still happier that I'm a Harvard graduate than I'm playing in the NHL, to be honest," Killorn said, smiling.

Killorn, 25, will likely add many more mementos to his wall after these playoffs, where he has emerged as one of the Lightning's rising stars, ranking third on the team in goals (six) and points (14). He's a big reason Tampa Bay has a 2-1 series lead over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final heading into tonight's Game 4.

On a top line that features captain Steven Stamkos, Killorn is the straw that stirs the drink. Killorn, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound left wing, was a "giant among men," coach Jon Cooper said, in Wednesday's 6-5 overtime victory in Game 3. He fired off nine shots and scored a highlight-reel goal on a nifty toe drag. Cooper calls Killorn a gazelle, a player who blends size and speed, and is trusted in all situations.

"He's a special player," center Tyler Johnson said, "that consistent rock."

"He does everything right," Stamkos said.

"He makes everybody around him better," Cooper said.

But Cindy, who taught sociology part time at LaSalle College in Montreal, is grateful Killorn has a "safety net." He is one of just three active NHL players (and 27 in league history) who attended Harvard (another is Rangers center Dominic Moore). As proud as she is, Cindy said she "really, really didn't know" if Killorn would make it in the NHL.

"If you're (Sidney) Crosby's parents, then I think it's pretty straightforward he's going to play hockey," Cindy said. "(The same) if you're Stamkos' mom, but for the other 99.99 percent of hockey players that play college hockey, I don't know if you know."

Cindy once told Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman her son was one injury away form "driving the Zamboni." Yzerman, a Hall of Fame player, politely replied, "Come on, I think that's a bit of an exaggeration."

Cindy, who has a master's degree in education, and her husband, Matt, made school a priority. The oldest of their three kids, Katie, 26, is in medical school at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Rachel, 23, is at an accounting firm in Montreal.

After Alex attended Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, he picked Harvard over Boston College, Boston University and Yale. Cindy will never forget the day she broke the news to Katie. Mom made sure Katie sat down.

"I said, 'Alex is going to Harvard,' " Cindy said. "She said, 'What did you just say?' I said, 'Your brother is going to Harvard.' She said, 'My stupid little brother is going to Harvard? You're kidding me, Mom. Oh my God.' So that's sort of been a running joke."

Killorn, who started as an economics major, learned to dispel some of the school's stereotypes.

"Obviously you see the movies, Legally Blonde and that kind of stuff. I wouldn't say it's anything like that," Killorn said. "You see certain aspects of that . … Not many Reese Witherspoons (the star of Legally Blonde) but a lot of smart people, a lot of well-rounded people."

Killorn played four seasons for the Crimson — he was a 2011-12 nominee for the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey's top player — while trying to balance sports and the books.

"You kind of get used to it," he said. "You're going to practice, then you have to go home and write a 12-page paper, right? I'm really happy I don't have to do that anymore. I can concentrate on hockey."

But Killorn, drafted in the third round in 2007, said he needed four years of college hockey to develop and was happy Yzerman and the Lightning didn't pressure him. Killorn went pro in the spring of 2012, joining AHL Norfolk, then a Lightning affiliate, for Game 18 of its record 28-game winning streak en route to the Calder Cup title.

Killorn was grateful Cooper, then Norfolk's coach, allowed him to attend his Harvard graduation, which occurred between the playoffs' third round and the Calder Cup final. In a black cap and gown, Killorn walked with his classmates through Harvard Yard. Cindy said she was teary-eyed watching from the library steps, her son — now living his NHL dream — having taught her something.

"He really has."


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after he beats Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) to score the first goal of the game during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Lightning forward has hovered just below 20 goals for years and finally reached the mark on Friday.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) leads the celebration as players contratulate right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) after he beat Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the game 3-3 in the final moments during third period action at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 in Tampa. The Lightning went on to win 4 to 3 in the shootout.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay went from sixth place in the Atlantic Division to second behind a 10-game win streak.
  3. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay pours on the goals with seven total, including two from Nikita Kucherov.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay also reassigned Alex Volkov to AHL Syracuse as Pat Maroon returned to the lineup.
  5. Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) tries to control the puck the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning's Jan Rutta (44) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay falls off a recent trend of strong defense and lets Minnesota dictate the game.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches from the bench as his team plays against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Even if the play is erased by an earlier offsides, the penalty still must be served.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) in the tunnel before heading out to the ice for warms ups before taking on the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Playing in Minnesota is special for McDonagh, who grew up 12 miles from St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
  8. Canada's Geneviève Lacasse (31) blocks a shot by United States' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) during the third period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [MICHAEL DWYER  |  AP]
    Teams representing the United States and Canada will play a 3-on-3 scrimmage as part of the festivities in St. Louis next week.
  9. TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 14: (Editor's Note: Image was digitally altered)  The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings fathers, brothers and mentors during the Kings' annual team trip at Amalie Arena on January 14, 2020 in Tampa. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson/NHLI via Getty Images) [CASEY BROOKE LAWSON  |  NHLI via Getty Images]
    The Kings are the latest team to bring their annual trip to Tampa. The Capitals and Senators have also done so this year.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Alexander Volkov (92) before Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Also, Kings’ Jonathan Quick takes a Steven Stamkos one-timer up high.