Blue Jacket defenceman defends public education

Jacqueline Louie

Mike Commodore never enjoyed English very much, until he enrolled in Debra Kelly’s high school English class at Fort Saskatchewan High School.


For the 29-year-old Albertan, now a professional hockey player with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Kelly made a difficult subject easier. “I had more like a math and science kind of mentality. The writing and stuff like that—I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t really get it,” says Commodore, who was born and raised in Fort Saskatchewan.

 Mike Commodore

“Mrs. Kelly made English class fun to go to. I enjoyed being around her. I enjoyed going to class. I wanted to pay attention, and I wanted to try, because I liked her. She was funny and she was a really good teacher. She was a really nice lady.”


Tying with Kelly for Commodore’s all-time favourite teacher is his mother, Eleanore Commodore, who was also his high school math teacher (as well as a former principal of Fort Saskatchewan High School). A teacher for over 30 years, Eleanore Commodore retired a year ago. “She was a really good teacher. She explained things well. I think she was liked by the majority of students that had her,” her son says. “Obviously, she kept me on the straight and narrow—you wouldn’t see me messing around in class.” He adds, “It’s kind of embarrassing if your mom yells at you in class.”


One of Commodore’s goals is to finish his university degree. When he was 18, he headed to the U.S. to attend the University of North Dakota, where he majored in business. He left university before completing his degree after he signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils. At 6′5 and 230 pounds, the Albertan is known as a big, physical guy, a defenceman who plays hard.


Commodore has played in the NHL for eight seasons, and has been with the Calgary Flames, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Ottawa Senators. In the summer of 2008 he signed a five-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, an up-and-coming NHL team that last year had its best season in franchise history.


“I love playing hockey,” says Commodore, who wants to be in the game for as long as he can. “It’s a challenge competing against the best players in the world—that’s what I enjoy doing.” It requires a lot of training and hard work, but he loves it. “It’s been very interesting and fun. I’m very grateful for it; I’ve been very fortunate.”


Off the ice, he enjoys the travelling he does as an athlete, the doors that open to him as a professional hockey player and the opportunities to “hang out, and meet people who are very successful in different areas of expertise.”


Since leaving Alberta, Commodore has spent most of his time in the U.S. “You hear some horror stories about public schools down here,” the defenceman says, adding that many parents he’s spoken to want to enrol their children in a private school. “I feel grateful that was never an issue in Alberta. You realize as you get older how fortunate you are [in Alberta] to be able to go to a good school where things are safe, where teachers are good and where it’s public—it’s available for everybody.”

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