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Pandemic offers Lightning’s Ryan McDonagh opportunity to finish his degree

Just 18 credits short of his finance degree, the veteran defenseman is taking online courses through his university.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh works to get a shot on goal against the Nashville Predators during first period action at Amalie Arena on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh works to get a shot on goal against the Nashville Predators during first period action at Amalie Arena on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 3
Updated Feb. 4

TAMPA — Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh has found a way to make the most out of the new normal brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

He’s finishing his college degree.

McDonagh, who is 18 credits short of getting his personal finance degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is now taking online classes to put himself on a path to graduate.

McDonagh said getting his degree is something he’s been wanting to complete for a few years, but he hadn’t been able to get back to Madison to resume classes. When his old college roommate told him the university was offering a wider variety of online courses because of the pandemic, his hope became a reality.

With the NHL’s rigid regulations for teams when they travel — essentially restricting them to the arena, practice facility and team hotel while in road cities — McDonagh thought he’d have some time during the season to put toward online studies.

“I was gonna have a little bit of free time there to maybe hunker down,” said McDonagh, who scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Red Wings. “I talked to some advisors and figured it was workable here.”

The 31-year-old McDonagh decided to forgo his senior year at Wisconsin to sign an entry-level contract with the Rangers. At the time, he said it was the most difficult decision he had ever made.

“I’ve always, even a handful of years back, tried to find ways to continue my degree having one year left and just a handful of classes,” McDonagh said.

McDonagh, who could pursue a post-playing career as a financial planner, said a big reason he’s going back to school is to be an example for his young daughter and son.

“It’s only been a couple of weeks,” McDonagh said. “But it’s something that I hopefully could finish here and at least be able to tell your kids that you have a college degree. So when it’s their time to go to school, you can back it up with some evidence yourself. So we’ll see how it goes, but it’s been fun.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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