Goal oriented


Hannah Manske

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Arts & Sciences


Former UND hockey standout Rocco Grimaldi explains how online courses from alma mater allowed him to get a degree and, at the same time, pursue dream of playing in the NHL

Every online student has different schedules, commitments and opportunities.

National Hockey League player Rocco Grimaldi, a former University of North Dakota standout on the ice and in the community, has his own story, that includes online learning.

When offered to forgo his final two seasons at UND and turn pro, Grimaldi didn’t want to bypass his goal of obtaining a university degree.

The 2013-14 men’s hockey team finished with a record 25-14-3, and Grimaldi played a prominent role in that strong finish. He led the team in points scored (39), was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Midwest Regional, and earned Academic All-National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) honors.

Grimaldi then signed an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Florida Panthers. He has since been traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

Determined to finish his degree while playing the sport he loved, Grimaldi turned to UND Online and distance education to earn his bachelor degree in communication. He came back to Grand Forks to walk across the graduation stage in May of 2015.

“For me, online was better,” said Grimaldi. “It was easier to choose when I listened to my lectures instead of having a set class time. Also, some classes (enroll anytime) allowed me to work at my own pace, which I really liked; I could get ahead on assignments when I had extra time.”

Balancing act

While the intensity, competition and time commitment of professional hockey increased, Grimaldi felt completing his degree online fit his schedule perfectly.

“Balancing hockey and school was easier because of online classes,” he said. “I never missed an online lecture. I listened to lectures whenever I wanted, as long as I turned my assignments in on time. When I was on campus, I would miss classes due to road trips. I’d catch up by talking with the instructor and other students. Online classes solved that.”

UND Online offers both semester-based and enroll-anytime courses. Enroll-anytime courses are self-paced, independent study courses that are available online in a wide variety of subject areas. Students may enroll at any time and have between three to nine months to complete a course.

Grimaldi took both semester-based and enroll-anytime courses while at UND, but found enroll anytime to be more beneficial.

“I suggest taking enroll-anytime classes if you can stick to a schedule and don’t procrastinate,” Grimaldi said. “I like getting things done and as soon as possible so they don't hang over my head.”

Steady pace

Grimaldi liked having all the coursework listed out, explaining what was needed to complete a course within three to nine months. This allowed Grimaldi to take courses that fit around his hockey schedule.

“If I’d have free time, I would work on one assignment and then move right into the next,” he said. “I didn't want the class to linger around. “The courses work around your schedule and you don't have to be stressed about going to class.”

He credits online, enroll-anytime courses for allowing him to finish his degree faster than traditional, semester-based courses or even on-campus offerings.

A large part of Grimaldi’s off-ice success comes from determination, something he says is crucial to keeping up with enroll anytime courses. He suggests not waiting until the last minute to complete a course.

“You need to find a steady pace so you won't get behind and have to rush near the end,” Grimaldi said.

Grimaldi finds his degree in Communication beneficial, as professional athletes are often interviewed, and in their post-NHL careers, many players choose to become sports analysts, TV commentators or franchise promotors.

Having a degree while being a professional athlete gives Grimaldi something to fall back on after retiring from the sport, he said.