When Logan Shaw gazed out at the thousands of elementary school students who filled Honda Center for a Ducks practice, he couldn't help but identify with them.
On Monday, the team held its First Flight event, a fun field trip for kids to learn about science, math and technology through hockey demonstrations by Ducks players. It also requires them to do an actual assignment and perhaps some homework.
Shaw knows the feeling. When he's not grinding it out on the fourth line for the Ducks, he's studying microeconomics online toward his goal of a business degree, and at this point in the season he's the equivalent of a college student with upcoming midterm exams.
"I have three assignments left," Shaw said. "I have until the start of May to finish it, so it's coming down to the wire."
While most NHL players wait until their careers are over to pursue education, Shaw is getting a jump on his post-hockey life. During flights home, he's often on his laptop at the back of the plane to learn about supply and demand theories and market systems.
It's the ideal time, because it doesn't interfere with hockey, although it folds into a sport based on a daily structure of games, practices, workouts and meetings.
"It takes a lot, physically and mentally, to be able to take the time to make yourself smarter and further yourself," center Nate Thompson said. "Guys that can do that are pretty disciplined guys."
Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle understood Shaw's interest in a bigger picture and said "if that's his parents' upbringing or his own desire, he's to be commended on it."
When Shaw was growing up in Glace Bay, Canada, a tiny outpost in eastern Nova Scotia, his parents emphasized education. His father, Gerard, works in government and his mother, Sandra, is a retired nurse.
"They always wanted me to have a degree, no matter what, no matter if I played 15 years," Shaw said. "For me, it is something to do. It keeps your brain fresh when you're off.
"You have to do something when you're finished. You can't play hockey forever. Not everyone is Jaromir Jagr and playing until they can actually retire."
Shaw was teammates with Jagr on the Florida Panthers before the Ducks acquired him in a Nov. 16 trade because they were without the injured Thompson for the first few months of the season. Shaw has since filled a defensive role as a penalty killer, and he was rewarded with a one-year contract extension last week.
Although he plays only about 10 minutes a game, it helps spread the workload.
"We can't continue to play our top-minute guys those extra penalty-killing minutes," Carlyle said. "We think that with his ability to skate, his size, the defensive side of it is where his strengths are."
The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Shaw wants to contribute more offensively. But his identity is a fourth-line mainstay with Thompson as they do the grunt work befitting of Shaw's family roots.
Glace Bay used to be a coal mining town. Shaw's grandfather worked in the mines before the industry declined in the 1990s. That was the underlying part of his parents' message of education.
"They always wanted me to not do that stuff," Shaw said.
Shaw always felt comfortable in a classroom, and got a kick out of being on the teaching side Monday.
"Hockey and education — there's a big relation," he said. "You can learn a lot through hockey. For me, growing up, I related everything I did in school to hockey. It's easy to understand it more and you enjoy it a lot more."
No line changes
Carlyle said he's considered tweaking his lines but likes Rickard Rakell at third-line center with Corey Perry because they get favorable matchups.
Ideally, Carlyle would like to try another center to spark Perry offensively but shied from reuniting him with Ryan Getzlaf as they manage through the suspension of Antoine Vermette.
"Those are the things that you're contemplating," Carlyle said. "I'd just like to stay with some continuity."
DUCKS VS. NASHVILLE
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830.
Update: Ducks goalie John Gibson skated before practice, Carlyle said, and remains unavailable because of a lower-body injury. Nashville's Filip Forsberg was one of the NHL's hottest players last month with 10 goals in a five-game stretch. Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis and new forward addition P.A. Parenteau are nearing returns from injury, according to The Tennessean.