8 minute read

Good Sports

by Pat Morden

Imagine this. You’re standing on a muddy field, wearing nothing but shorts and a T-shirt. A tall, muscled opponent is charging toward you, holding tight to a leather ball. It’s a moment, says Dan Moor ’08, that truly builds character. “You see someone bigger and stronger running at you, and you have to commit yourself to making the tackle,” he says. “You have to put your body on the line for the betterment of the team.”

Moor plays rugby, a notoriously physical game played with no protective equipment. He is one of several alumni who credit Crescent with providing a strong foundation for the high stress world of professional sport. The School’s core values – respect, responsibility, honesty, and compassion – are lived by Crescent sport teams (see the Code of Sportsmanship below). They also influence athletic careers far beyond the school walls.

Moor started playing rugby at Crescent and went on to the varsity team at Queen’s University while completing his degree in commerce and history. After graduation, he worked for a private equity firm in Toronto while pursuing his rugby dream as a member of the Ontario and Canadian teams. He played professionally in Victoria for one year, then enrolled as an MBA candidate at the University of Oxford, which has a strong rugby program. Now he’s playing with the professional Yorkshire Carnegie team, with the goal of playing for Canada at the World Cup in 2019.

Moor’s professional life is demanding: he trains and practises every day and plays league games weekly from September to May. “It’s full-on intensive, always working to get better at your craft,” he says. With rugby, injuries are almost inevitable. Still, says Moor, “I feel very grateful and fortunate to wake up every day and do a job that’s really challenging but I love to do.” Knowing that he won’t be able to play forever, Moor plans to return to private equity and eventually operate his own business.

Defenseman David Harlock '89 of the New York Islanders looks on during a 1998 game against the Washington Capitals at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: Getty Images

David Harlock ’89 has already made the transition to his second career. Harlock played hockey professionally for more than a decade and now works in Detroit for one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, Marsh & McLennan.

He started playing at age six but didn’t take it too seriously until Grade 7, when he moved up to competitive AAA and joined Crescent. By his last year of high school, he was playing Junior B hockey with the St. Michael’s Buzzers. Drafted by the Ottawa 67s in the OHL, he opted instead to accept a scholarship at the University of Michigan, where he was a student-athlete for four years.

Upon graduating university in 1993, Harlock trained with Canada’s National Team from August to February, learning that he had made the Olympic team just days before they left for Lillehammer in February 1994. During the Olympics, Canada exceeded expectations, playing Sweden in the gold medal game and, after a sudden-death overtime, lost in a shootout. Two weeks later, Harlock made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens. “It was exciting,” he says, “but it paled in comparison to the gold medal game!”

After several years back in the minors, Harlock signed with the New York Islanders in 1998 and played his first full year in the NHL. “This was an enjoyable season as I was stepping on the ice and playing against people I’d grown up watching and admiring,” he says. Then it was on to Atlanta for three seasons. Although he loved the sport, there were downsides. “You’re really a human commodity,” he says.

“And it’s an extremely public career – fun when things are going well but mentally and physically draining when you are struggling or your team is losing.” Injuries were beginning to catch up with him too: during his last three and a half years of play, he had six surgeries. He retired in 2003 but still enjoys a little healthy competition. “There are certain professions that athletes gravitate to because there is a competitive nature to them,” he says. “As an insurance sales professional, every time my team wins a new account, we must beat another broker or agent to do so.”

Matt Buckles '13 played for Cornell's Big Red hockey team.

Matt Buckles ’13 followed a path similar to Harlock’s. He started playing at an even younger age and “was pretty good at it from the get-go.” He was in the Ontario Junior Hockey League by the time he was in Grade 11 at Crescent, scoring 40 regular -season goals and helping the St. Mike’s

Buzzers win the championship in 2014. Drafted by the Florida Panthers, he studied economics and finance at Cornell University while playing on its hockey team. “It was the best decision I ever made,” he says. “Studying and being an athlete made for a pretty full schedule, but it was great to be able to do both.”

After he graduated, he played for three years in the American Hockey League. Lingering injuries persuaded him to call it quits. Buckles joined an investment bank in Toronto in 2018. Like Harlock, he sees similarities between his two careers. “My job is competitive and fast-paced, and you work on teams that are oriented to getting results,” says Buckles.

Nicolas Latifi '13 claims dominant sprint race win at 2018 Spa-Francorchamps.

“Fast-paced” is something Nicholas Latifi ’13 knows well. He was 12 years old when he had his first experience of go-kart driving, the starting point for most Formula drivers. He liked it and discovered he was “faster than people who were twice my age!”

Pretty soon, he was racing go-karts, coached by David Tennyson, a former professional racer. “I really liked the feeling of going fast, the adrenaline rush,” he says. “And then with racing, there’s the added factor of competition – going wheel to wheel with other drivers, wanting to catch them on the track and pull away from them.”

At age 16, Latifi advanced from karts to Formula-style cars and started competing in Formula 3 races across Europe. He withdrew from Crescent after Grade 11 to focus on racing, completing the rest of his credits in summer school and online. After three years, he moved up to Formula 2, where he is currently in his third season. He also works with top Formula 1 teams: Renault, Force India and Williams Martini Racing. “I’m a sponge, learning as much as I can in that environment, without the pressure of a race seat.” One of his jobs with Force India is helping calibrate training simulators to more accurately reflect the real experience of driving. He expects to spend one more season in Formula 2 before hopefully getting a “seat” in a Formula 1 car.

It’s a physically demanding sport, says Latifi, in part because of the powerful g-forces that drivers experience. They must have strong neck, arm and leg muscles, good cardiovascular endurance and superb coordination and reaction time. They must also accept the danger inherent in racing at high speeds and know that they don’t always control the outcome. “You can do everything right, get a good start, be leading in the race, and then have your engine blow up.”

Working for the Toronto Raptors, Eric Khoury '07 balances his love of basketball with his knowledge of big data.
Photo credit: Nation Wong

The world of professional sport goes beyond what happens on the field, track or rink. Eric Khoury ’07 was a fan of basketball from an early age and played throughout his time at Crescent. “It’s a team sport where everyone is involved all the time, both on offense and defense,” he says, explaining his passion. “Strategy is a huge part of it – it’s not just who’s the most athletic, but who can think on the fly.”

With no plans for a career in sport, Khoury completed an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering and went on to a master’s degree in experimental fluid dynamics. His research involved Particle Imaging Velocimetry, a technique in which thousands of images of tiny particles suspended in a fluid are used to study how the fluid is behaving. As he was finishing his thesis, he learned that the NBA was installing cameras in the rafters of every NBA arena and taking thousands of images of the players moving around on the floor below. “I was doing particle tracking, and the NBA was doing player tracking – I saw a big-time overlap, so I reached out to the Raptors.”

Khoury contacted the person in charge of analytics at the Raptors and eventually landed a one-year internship. At first he focused on writing computer algorithms to make sense of the “big data” coming from the rafter cameras and elsewhere, but he gradually began working more closely with the coaches. “A lot of people know the numbers better than me, and a lot of people know the basketball better than me,” he says. “I’m trying to find my niche blending the two.”

Today, Khoury is Director of Analytics and Assistant Coach with the Raptors. That afforded him the opportunity to help coach Team LeBron at the NBA All-Star game in February 2018, which he described as an “awesome experience.” The toughest part of his job is the constant travel, he says. Given that games are at night and on weekends, the hours can be punishing, too. “You have to be a fan to make it work, but even so, there’s only so much basketball anybody can watch!”

How did their Crescent experience prepare these men to withstand the rigours of professional sport? Khoury says one of his take-aways was the importance of being well-rounded. “At Crescent, you learn that there’s time for everything, and the more different activities you do, the better you work.” Harlock says Crescent helped him develop discipline, leadership, competitiveness and self-confidence. “There were certain situations at Crescent when I was asked to step outside my comfort zone," says Harlock. "Doing that definitely helped me in professional hockey career.”

Latifi also says he learned discipline, plus time management, accountability and personal responsibility. “Those are skills that I still use today and will be using for the rest of my life.”

Moor points to the example set by teachers, who were “always demanding high levels of integrity, teamwork and responsibility.” He also benefited from the opportunity to create and lead from an early age, and the sense of camaraderie fostered among the students. Buckles sums it up simply: “It’s written on the wall: respect, responsibility, honesty and compassion. Those are the core values you learn at Crescent, and you need them whatever you do.”

Dan Moor '08 playing for Canada versus the New Zealand Maori All Blacks in Vancouver in November 2017.

CRESCENT’S CODE OF SPORTSMANSHIP

As an athlete at Crescent, a student represents the School. His conduct on and off the field projects the image of Crescent School to the community. Membership on a Crescent team is held in high esteem and a code of sportsmanship is followed:

Play the game for the game’s sake

Be generous in victory

Be graceful in defeat

Be fair at all times, no matter what the cost

Be obedient to the rules

Work for the good of the team

Accept gracefully the decision of the officials

Believe in the honesty of your opponents

Conduct yourself with honour and dignity at all times

Recognize and applaud, honestly and wholeheartedly, the efforts of your teammates and opponents