Former student-athlete learns the value of giving back

UAF photo by Leif Van Cise.
Ryan Muspratt, recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UAF Alumni Association, visits a collage of Alaska Nanook hockey images on a wall at the Carlson Center in 2024.

By Felicia Burud

When Ryan Muspratt was 8 years old, he decided to write a book.

The handmade construction paper and crayon tome, “Hockey is Life,” turned out to be an early step on his road to Nanook Nation.

Muspratt ’08 grew up in Calgary, Alberta, where he immersed himself in the sport from an early age. By the time he was in his late teens he had started taking college classes while playing for the Camrose Kodiaks, a team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. That’s when he first heard about UAF, and what he heard was good.

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UAF photo by Leif Van Cise.
Ryan Muspratt stands in the Alaska Nanooks' hockey locker room at the Carlson Center in 2024.

A visit from Nanooks assistant coach Tavis MacMillan sealed the deal for Muspratt’s parents. They liked the idea of UAF’s safe, tight-knit community, the promise of a full-ride scholarship and lots of ice time for their son.

For Muspratt, who had offers from several other schools, a community where hockey is the headliner sport was appealing. In the end, a pivotal conversation with his childhood friend Aaron Lee convinced him.

They both had scholarship offers from UAF. They both said practically the same thing: “I'll go if you go.” The pair were roommates their freshman year in Lathrop Hall.

When he arrived at UAF in the fall of 2004, Muspratt immediately built strong bonds with his teammates.

“We shot pool in the lounge of our dorm and played video games,” he said. “We didn’t have social media. Texting was just becoming a big thing.”

Those bonds built a competitive team. And like many Division I hockey players, Muspratt had aspirations of putting in his time at the collegiate level and then moving on to a professional hockey career. That changed with the 29th game of his sophomore year, when he suffered a season-ending injury while trying to make an open ice hit against a Bowling Green skater.

“I could hear my ACL snap,” Muspratt recalled. “In the locker room, I knew it was bad when the athletic trainer picked up my leg and immediately concluded it was an ACL tear.”

The real agony began with the realization that his season was over.

“You get hit with this wave of emotion to realize that an injury like this is devastating, and it could be the end of your career. You also know it’s going to be an incredible amount of work to get back in shape,” he said. “It’s really overwhelming. Then you realize you have to call your mum and get ready to go under the knife, and that’s daunting.”

UAF’s team physician, Dr. Cary Keller, performed surgery to repair the knee, and Muspratt spent the remainder of the season off the ice.

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Photo courtesy of UAF Athletics Department.
Ryan Muspratt, No. 10, maneuvers past defenders while playing for the Nanooks.

“Ryan was unrelenting in his focused dedication to the work of his recovery,” Keller said. “Every day as he worked, he focused on the vision of returning to the game, jumping onto the ice and scoring a goal for the Nanooks.”

That injury was the catalyst for Muspratt to start thinking beyond his personal goals. It wasn’t just getting to the NHL that mattered. He found an interest in giving back.

“When you see how much the community of Fairbanks invests in the hockey program, you just naturally want to give back,” he said. “I was thrilled to be a Division I hockey player in a community that valued hockey as much as it did.”

Muspratt credits McMillan, the hockey staff and UAF alumni for helping players understand their role in the community and the importance of those relationships. For Muspratt, it meant interacting with the team’s superfans, whether by volunteering at local schools or participating in events like skating with the Girl Scouts.

“I’m so appreciative that the coaches had that community mindset,” he said. “Those very reasons make me not want to live in a big city. I want to be part of a community where if you have a flat tire, someone is going to pull over to help you.”

Muspratt eventually returned to the ice, playing the rest of his college career while building a relationship with UAF through his business courses.

“The nice thing about UAF is that you have repeat professors, so you get to know them and they start taking a liking to you,” he said. “They start showing up to your hockey games because you have a personal connection to them. And, they are willing to give you advice.”

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Photo courtesy of Felicia Burud.
Ryan Muspratt poses with a young fan on the ice at the Carlson Center during the 2007-2008 hockey season.

One of those professors was Ken Abramowicz.

“Dr. Ken cared more than the average teacher,” Muspratt said. “I also want to say he was solely responsible for killing my 4.0 by giving me my first B. But I learned more from him than a grade could reflect.”

Abramowicz recommended that Muspratt take the time to interview with firms during a recruiting event at UAF. He accepted an offer from KPMG midway through his final hockey season. That meant he only had to finish up enough courses to meet the 150-credit requirement to sit for the CPA exam.

“My senior year was a blast,” he said. “My last semester I got to take some just-for-fun classes, like pistol marksmanship. It was one credit to go shoot guns for an hour each week.”

That year he also decided to set up a scholarship in the name of another mentor: Dr. Cary Keller, the orthopedic surgeon who repaired his sophomore-year knee injury. The scholarship is for returning student-athletes who demonstrate financial need and strong dedication to their sport. To date, the scholarship has been awarded to 22 students.

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Muspratt.
Ryan Muspratt poses with his wife, Jenna, and son, Westin, near Anchorage.

Keller said the scholarship reflects Muspratt’s gratitude to his health care providers, but more importantly, it was his way of acknowledging the bigger picture.

“Student-athletes make a profound commitment to the university, including time, energy, blood and tears,” Keller said. “They deserve an equal commitment of medical, academic and financial support.”

After graduating in 2008 with two degrees, Muspratt moved to Anchorage to pursue a career with KPMG as an auditor and earn his CPA license.

Daniel Jensen, a former colleague at KPMG, said Ryan brought his team-oriented values to his profession. 

“Not only as a mentor to me, but I think he set a record for the most people to formally nominate him as a mentor,” Jensen said. “He keeps a strong network and is an advocate for those he can help succeed.”

Muspratt’s commitment to community remains a core part of his life. Fellow alumni and colleagues note that he invests both time and financial support. 

Muspratt serves on the UAF College of Security and Management Advisory Board. He is on the boards of Special Olympics Alaska and the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska. In 2020, the Alaska Journal of Commerce named him to the annual Top 40 Under 40 list.

Today, he is a senior vice president at Petro Star Inc., where he manages accounting, financial planning and analysis, information technology, administration and logistics. He lives in Anchorage with his wife, Jenna, and son, Westin.

When he looks back, Muspratt can see there was plenty of support to bring him to a future he couldn’t even imagine at the time. When asked for advice he’d offer today’s students, he said, “Just be aware that you don’t know a lot yet. Be open to advice. Take the time to discover what works for you and the world that you live in.”

Ryan Muspratt will be presented with the 2024 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UAF Alumni Association at a ceremony during the Nanook Rendezvous alumni reunion on July 18, 2024.