There are countless life lessons a father can pass on to his son. For Ottawa 67s defenceman Cody Ceci one lesson stands out.
Cody's father, Parri, played football at the University of Guelph leading the school to the Vanier Cup in 1984. Soon after that triumph the Calgary Stampeders drafted Ceci, a wide receiver, but his Canadian Football League career was halted in his rookie season due to a knee injury.
"He's always been big on academics, because he wants me to have a solid background and something to fall back on," said Cody, who is projected to be a first-round pick at this month's NHL draft.
"You want to do a job that you enjoy doing," said Parri, "and not have to dig ditches or something, because you don't have an education."
And the elder Ceci speaks from experience. He actually did dig ditches after his football career ended laying water mains and sewers for new developments.
"I got frustrated and said, 'I got to do something better than this,'" said Parri, who eventually returned to school enrolling in some computer courses at Ottawa's Algonquin College.
Parri now works for the federal government as a database administrator.
"If I could go back I definitely would have gotten more out of my schooling [at Guelph] so I could do something more in the coaching-teaching field, because that's what I really enjoy to do," he said.
Parri is proud of his son's on-ice accomplishments, but he's just as proud of the decisions Cody has made away from the rink. One that stands out: Cody moved away from his home in Ottawa at the age of 13 to attend Lakefield College School, a private boarding institution just north of Peterborough, Ont.
"That was an educational move," said Parri. "Everybody thinks it was a hockey move, but it had nothing to do with hockey at all. Lakefield is one of the best educational opportunities he's ever had. That's why he took that."
Parri proudly points out that Cody, a math and sciences whiz, is now taking some courses at Carleton University to get a jumpstart on his post-secondary education even as the excitement surrounding the draft grows.
Sometimes Cody Ceci wonders what his life would have been like if he ended up in the Ivy League instead of the Ontario Hockey League.
"I definitely think about it," he said. "I think the OHL was the best opportunity for me and I'm happy everything worked out the way it did, but at the same time I would have loved to go to one of those schools. It would have been nice to experience that, but I think everything worked out for the best."
Before the 2009 OHL Priority Selection Draft Ceci and his parents came to an understanding: If Cody was picked in the first round he would report for duty with his new team, but if he slipped down the board he would head stateside and attend one of the Ivy League schools that had shown interest in him.
Ceci was picked by Ottawa, his hometown team, 16th overall, which was the fifth-last pick in the opening round. Parri insists the days leading up to the draft were not tense.
"Schooling was going to come first," he said. "And we knew that the further down he got drafted the more important schooling was going to be, because his chances of getting to the NHL would decrease."
NOT PHYSICAL ENOUGH?
With all this focus on learning it's no surprise that Ceci, who had just 14 penalty minutes in 64 games this season, is very much a cerebral player.
"Watching [former Miami Dolphins quarterback] Dan Marino, his release was quick and that was the reason he didn't get sacked that much and Cody's the same," said Parri. "He moves the puck very quickly and efficiently, usually tape to tape no matter where he is on the ice."
Although, at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, some believe Cody should play with more of a physical edge. And, at first, so did his father.
"When I was coaching him I always wanted him to hit harder, but he never really did it and yet he still always came away with the puck. He would look at me and say, 'Why do you want me to be in the box? I don't want to be in the box. I just want to play hockey.'"
Cody has acknowledged he is aiming to be more of a physical presence moving forward, but, according to his dad, a huge change is not necessary.
"I've been fortunate to watch all his games and the more you watch him you realize he's just really efficient, because he uses his body and size, but he never takes himself out of the play to hit somebody."
THE NEXT STEP
Parri has thought about what it will be like to hear his son's name called on June 22 in Pittsburgh.
"I'm probably looking forward to it more than him," he said. "It's still pretty surreal. It's going to be emotional."
TSN scout Craig Button believes Ceci has the potential to be on a NHL roster in the fall. And, with that in mind, there's one more piece of advice Parri plans on giving son as he aims to take the giant leap up from junior hockey.
"I played at the CFL level right after university so I know the jump is huge," said Parri. "You think you're the best there is and all of the sudden you get thrown in with a bunch of guys who are just as big and fast so I know what's coming for him."