On Sunday evening, Boston College men’s hockey center Colin White came to terms with the Ottawa Senators. Just a sophomore, White agreed to an amateur tryout with the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton. Only two weeks ago, he was battling for a Hockey East Championship.
Leaving early for a shot at the NHL has become more of a norm for BC players. After all, White was the ninth underclassmen to depart for the league in the past two years alone.
Eight years ago, Andrew Orpik, BC ’08—a senior at the time—was faced with a similar decision. He had the opportunity to sign with a farm league team and forego his final months at BC. But, Orpik, a three-time national finalist and 2008 National Champion, wanted to spend his spring like any other college student would.
As soon as he graduated, Orpik turned pro. He signed with the Phoenix Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, landing him in San Antonio. The former Kelley Memorial Award winner played one year with the Rampage before moving to the East Coast league.
Orpik spent most of the second year of his career with the Wheeling Nailers. But unlike his brother, Brooks—an already established Pittsburgh Penguin—Orpik couldn’t find his footing at the professional level. And eventually, he decided that it was time to leave the game and enter the real world.
So, Orpik left the small town of Wheeling, W. Va. and returned to Beantown.
He began to network with his high school and college contacts, searching for career advice. But for Orpik, the transition wasn’t easy. Coming from BC—the best college hockey team of the 2000’s—Orpik was used to not only winning, but being pampered. Yet the minute he entered the workforce, he was no longer given special treatment. In fact, he wasn’t given anything.
“All of a sudden, it doesn’t really matter if you won a National Championship or you won a Beanpot,” Orpik said. “You’re competing with people that are extremely intelligent, extremely driven, the same way you were athletically.”
Orpik had his eyes set on commercial real estate, but was cautioned of its demanding commitment and was advised to take some time to weigh his options. As a result, the CSOM graduate and marketing major put off the dream and was hired by Merrill Lynch. Two years into working in the field of wealth management and financial services, he still yearned for a job as a real estate broker.
Orpik left Merrill Lynch, and after three months of interviews and applications, wound up at Cresa Boston. Four years later, and he still works there today.
Like they were at BC, Orpik’s days start early and leave little breathing room. He gets up before 6 a.m. and is in his desk by 7:30. For the next 11 or so hours, he’s calling, emailing, and meeting people.
Being a former athlete comes in handy.
Naturally, Orpik calls upon his time management skills. But even more so, he relies on his ability to turn a loss into a positive experience. As a broker, he is competing with firms, and the fact of the matter is, failure at some point or another is inevitable. Orpik finds that he can often rebound from a setback better than those in the business who never played a sport.
But Orpik’s ties to the game of his youth extend further than the office. Along with Matt and Jeremy Price, he coaches the U18 Cape Cod Whalers—a team that White, Brian Boyle, Joe Rooney, Cory Schneider, and he all played for. It’s a voluntary, nonprofit gig that allows Orpik to play a role in the development of high schoolers, both as hockey players and as men. In a way, Orpik is repaying a self-proclaimed debt.
“I think we’d be too naïve to think that we’d be where we are today without hockey,” Orpik said.
And he pays it off in more ways than one. Orpik also helps run the BC Hockey Mentoring Program. Originally founded by Peter Berlandi, the program consists of 15 to 20 business professionals—many of whom are BC alumni—that work in Boston and venture to campus three or four times a year to meet with BC hockey players. Each mentor discusses their career history and development, as well as preparation for the real world.
The service debuted when Orpik was a freshman, and because of its personal influence, he wanted to share the similar insights that he once received. Although he may never benefit business- or career-wise from the program, Orpik sees it as a way to give back to his school, all while meeting the players of BC hockey’s future.
That very gesture of giving back remains one of Orpik’s core beliefs. At 31 years old, he often reflects on how fortunate he was to attend a school like BC. He maintains that, as a student on the Heights, it is essential to take a step back and appreciate where you are and what you have. Not everyone has the same opportunities as BC students.
“No matter what you have going on in your life, what your job is, whether it’s a professional athlete, or you’re working for real estate, or you’re working for a nonprofit, you have the time to give back to other people,” Orpik said.
Because of his hockey schedule, Orpik could not take a semester abroad or go on service trips like many other BC students. But in time, he found his niche. In addition to coaching and mentoring, Orpik teamed up with Pat Mullane, BC ’10 and a hockey alum, to create the Commonwealth Avenue Charity Classic in 2015.
With manager Justin Murphy, the two cultivated the Green Line rivalry and put it to good work. Orpik and Mullane developed an annual midsummer alumni game between BC and Boston University grads where all proceeds are directed to Compassionate Care ALS and the Travis Roy Foundation. Each year, BU’s Walter Brown Arena features past NHL and AHL talent. But, more importantly, it memorializes Jim Cotter, Ron Perryman, Richard Armstrong, and Dick Kelley, and honors Pete Frates—all of whom were/are victims of ALS. It also commemorates Travis Roy, the former BU hockey player who became paralyzed just 11 seconds into his collegiate career.
What once started as an idea, has evolved into a prominent fundraiser—in its two years of existence, the event has raised over $100,000. Orpik thinks that someday the game will grow out of the confines of Walter Brown Arena and find its way into Conte Forum.
“It just goes to show you that with a little bit of effort and dedication, you can create something that’s so much bigger than yourself and so much bigger than you probably thought it ever would be,” Orpik said.
Mentoring or not, Orpik keeps finding himself back at his alma mater. This past weekend, he ran through part of the Boston Marathon course in preparation for the April 17 race. Despite being quick on the ice, Orpik, admittingly, is not a runner. But nothing was going to stop him from another chance to give back—especially for a cause as close to home as this one.
Unlike the typical Boston Marathon participant, Orpik did not have to qualify. He will run for the Corey C. Griffin Foundation. This charity group memorializes Griffin, a childhood friend of Orpik, former BC student, and co-founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, who passed away in a freak accident on Nantucket island three years ago. It donates all funds toward children in less fortunate neighborhoods in the Boston area.
Come Marathon Monday, you’ll have someone else to look out for. Someone who is doing everything he can to give back.
Featured Image Courtesy of Andrew Orpik