San Marcos,
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Physics Professor Still Pursuing Passion for Hockey

By Eric Breier

Justin Perron grew up like a lot of Canadians – he was practically born wearing ice skates and had dreams of a career in the National Hockey League.

Not much has changed.

“I still think I’m making the NHL,” Perron quipped.

Perron is still wearing his ice skates, too.

While his days are spent at Cal State San Marcos teaching the next generation of scientists and conducting research in his physics lab, Perron joins other weekend warriors at Ice-Plex Escondido for weekly games in an adult ice hockey league.

Perron grew up outside of Toronto playing hockey with his brother and other older kids – “I was the youngest one, so I got beat up and told to play goalie,” he says – before graduating to highly competitive junior ice hockey leagues as a teenager.

Perron’s prowess on the ice earned him a spot playing for Oswego State University of New York, where he earned his bachelor’s in physics and mathematics.

Perron’s first year at Oswego remains his fondest hockey memory. The team enjoyed an outstanding playoff run and advanced to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four, which refers to the final four teams playing for the national championship. Oswego beat Middlebury College in the semifinals before falling to Norwich University in the championship.

“The whole experience was just awesome,” Perron said.

Perron could have given professional hockey a try in one of the smaller leagues – and many of the people he played with joined leagues in Europe and North America – but he knew toward the end of his senior year at Oswego that he was ready to focus on his interest in physics.

“I don’t have any big regrets,” he said. “I think it would have been fun to try playing professionally, but it probably would have derailed a lot of other things I did.”

Perron earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University at Buffalo in 2012, followed by a three-year postdoctoral position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. Perron was certainly able to get his fill of hockey during his time in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, but then came a move to Southern California to join the faculty at CSUSM in 2015.

While Southern California may not carry a reputation as a hotbed of hockey compared to Canada or the East Coast, Perron found he wasn’t alone in his passion for the sport when he started working at CSUSM. In fact, there is so much demand for ice time at Ice-Plex Escondido that the earliest available start time for Perron’s hockey games is 8:30 p.m., and it’s not unusual for him to get home from a game after midnight.

Perron plays in the top level among six divisions in the Ice-Plex adult hockey program, a division reserved for highly skilled players with years of experience.

“There are some really good players in the league,” Perron said, before adding with a laugh, “we’re just all really old. But it’s a blast to go out there and play.

“Most of us who play have some type of junior or college or pretty competitive hockey experience in our background. It’s just getting further and further away in the background. We don’t have the legs and we’re not as fast anymore, but it’s still fun. I just love playing hockey.”

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