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Recalled: From Blades to Bikes

Hockey to triathlon? A look at a few of the pros who moved from winter to summer sports.

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In 2013, veteran NHL player Ian Laperriere made headlines when he finished Ironman Mont Tremblant. Then a development coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, Laperrier had recently retired from the NHL with 121 goals and 336 points when he decided to take up triathlon. Despite a bike crash late in his training cycle, Laperriere went on to finish in 12 hours, 11 minutes, and 55 seconds, calling the experience one of the “most fulfilling days of his life.” While Laperrier’s story is unique, he’s not the only hockey player to switch into multisport. Here’s a look back at the icy beginnings of three current pros’ athletic careers—and how they successfully skated over to triathlon. 

Heather Jackson

The highly-decorated American pro took a swift route from the hockey rink to the podium, placing third at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships just five years after hanging up her skates. 

Hockey highlights: Jackson, 37, grew up playing hockey on the rinks near her hometown of Exeter, New Hampshire. Her skills took her all the way to Princeton, where she played four years for the NCAA DI program (serving as captain for two seasons), graduating with 89 points on 30 goals and 59 assists in 126 games. After missing the cut for the 2006 Olympic squad, Jackson took a job teaching in Thailand, which ultimately led her to enter her first Ironman in Malaysia. 

Transition to triathlon: Although she struggled in the swim and run in Malaysia, the bike was a breeze for Jackson—who trained via spin classes in the gym and rode on a borrowed bike. And she continued to show remarkable cycling strength as she improved in the sport, even outbiking the pros by seven minutes when she raced Oceanside 70.3 as an age-grouper in 2009 (she went pro later that season). When asked how she got so strong, Jackson credited the bulk and muscled she’d developed on the ice. “I was still 20 pounds heavier. Mainly muscle,” she said in 2011. “The power helped me on the bike and hurt me on the run.” She eventually figured it out, fine-tuning herself into one of the world’s toughest triathletes with four top-five finishes in Kona. 

Tyler Mislawchuk 

The Winnipeg native grew up dreaming of becoming a professional hockey player. But it would be triathlon that took him to the world’s stage; in 2019, the two-time Olympian, 27, became the first Canadian man to win a World Triathlon Championship Series race. 

Hockey highlights: Like many young Canadians, Mislawchuk, 27, spent most of his spare time on the ice growing up, excelling to a high standard into his early teens. Having also shown impressive form as a runner as a teen, a friend suggested he get into triathlon as a way of boosting fitness for hockey. Mislawchuk gave it a shot, and was soon offered to train with the Manitoba National Triathlon team. 

Transition to triathlon: The switch from hockey to triathlon was rather seamless for Mislawchuk, who was just 17 when he raced in the 2011 Junior Pan American Championships, finishing 9th. He qualified for the Olympics five years later. While he never returned to the rink as a player, he did show off his ice skating moves while going up  against a professional hockey goalie before a race in 2017. 

Camilla Pedersen

One of Denmark’s most successful triathletes, Pedersen’s decade-long pro triathlon career has included several Ironman and 70.3 podium finishes; she was also the first Danish triathlete to break the 9-hour mark in an Ironman. 

Hockey Highlights: Pedersen, 39, who was a member of the Danish national hockey team, played on a boy’s team for six years before focusing more on swimming and, later, triathlon.

Transition to triathlon: The toughness Pedersen picked up on the ice transferred onto the triathlon course, and in other parts of her life. Most remarkably, she won an ITU Long Distance World Triathlon Championship just a year after a harrowing bike crash that left her in a medically-induced coma with a fractured skull for 19 days. Last year, Pedersen placed third behind Lucy Charles-Barclay and Holly Bennett at Elsinore 70.3, just five months after giving birth to her son. “I like to use my body because you get to know yourself and your body a lot more when you go through your limits, and that’s what I like,” she said. “You never really know where the limits there, and you get surprised every time—you actually go over the limit you thought you have.”