“From The Vault” consists of past 1-on-1 interviews and never-before-seen features on Washington Capitals and NHL players. Here’s Pheonix Copley.
Over the course of his pro hockey career and beyond, Washington Capitals goaltender Pheonix Copley has been driven by the pursuit of knowledge.
The North Pole, Alaska native grew up determined to live out his dream of playing in the NHL. All the while, he showed an interest in academia. Then, at Michigan Tech, everything started to take shape.
Copley was drawn to the university thanks to its similarities in the Upper Peninsula, as well as the hockey program and impressive coaching staff that featured Steve Shields. That, and a good education with a solid mechanical engineering program, checked off all the boxes as the goaltender headed to the Huskies.
“I liked the sound of it,” Copley said of his major. “I like to figure out how things work, and it was really a hands-on kind of thing. A lot of math but also a lot of building things and figuring out how they work. That’s just something that interested me.”
Off the ice, Copley focused on homework and classes. He said his sophomore year from 2013-14 was probably his favorite in regards to his studies, all thanks to a design class where he got to build things on the computer and see them come to life while working with a lathe. On the ice, that same year marked a turning point in his career.
He boasted an impressive .911 save percentage through 30 games for Michigan Tech while pulling off several standout performances. In turn, Copley was rewarded with the majority of playing time, and in March 2014, he signed as an undrafted free agent with Washington.
Had he not gone pro, the 29-year-old said that he would have stuck with engineering. He also intends to finish his degree when he hangs up the skates just so he can have it.
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Right now, Copley remains a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to the Capitals’ depth in net. He played a full rookie season for Washington in 2018-19 as the backup to Braden Holtby, going 16-7-3 with a 2.90 GAA and .905 save percentage in 27 games. He has one year remaining on his deal with Washington.
Overall, across six AHL seasons, Copley’s racked up 100 victories, a .911 SV& and 2.55 GAA. He’s mainly been a staple between the pipes for Washington’s AHL affiliate Hershey Bears over the course of his seven-year career. This past season, he and Zach Fucale combined to win the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award for the fewest goals allowed per game (2.33). Hershey was also the best team in the AHL, going 24-7-2 in 2020-21.
Copley admitted it can be difficult balancing his pro career and staying in touch with his academic side. As he continues to pursue a full-time NHL gig, Copley remains an avid reader who prefers non-fiction history and biographies. His favorite book is “In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette.”
“I read quite a bit. It’s honestly hard,” Copley said. “I kind of haven’t done math in a while, so that’d be the toughest part… I read a lot and stay mentally sharp that way. That’ll definitely be a challenge for sure when hockey’s over.”