Mike Gagnon

Noble and Skapski pursue hockey and military careers at RMC

For British Columbia Hockey League alumni Cole Noble and Marshall Skapski, playing and studying at the Royal Military College of Canada was a triple threat.

First, they were able to continue playing hockey at a high level after their junior days. Second, RMC allowed them to earn a degree, and third, find a career serving their country. Both Noble and Skapski suited up for the Paladins last season and are enrolled in the Regular Officer Training Plan. They are paid to attend RMC, train to become officers, and will serve a five-year military commitment after graduation.

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“I was drawn to RMC for several reasons,” Skapski said. “First was the aspect of being a part of a team because hockey ends one day, but I wanted to continue to work in a similar environment. The second reason why I came to RMC was to play a role in sustaining the freedom we enjoy in Canada. Lastly, I felt that getting an RMC education would open more doors for me after my service.”

“You learn a lot of different things going to military college that you cannot receive on the civilian side, and I was interested in the challenge of what RMC has to offer,” he added.

Life at RMC

RMC is located in Kingston, Ont. Both ROTP cadets and reservists study there. The hockey student-athletes are challenged on the ice, academically, and in their military training.

“In terms of what I enjoy about playing hockey at RMC is the team itself,” Skapski said. “We are a very close group of guys because we all go through the same experiences… every guy has your back and we all help each other get through the tough times. You truly do build relationships that will last a lifetime.”

“As far as the education side of things, I really enjoy studying at RMC, because the classes are small, you build a relationship with the professors and there is no shortage of help if you require it. It is very difficult to get that experience at bigger schools on the civilian side.”

On the ice, the Paladins compete in Ontario University Athletics at the U SPORTS level, the highest level in the Canadian post-secondary ranks.

“The OUA was a great league for me because it is a league where everyone on a roster can play,” Noble said. “Previously you would find teams with younger guys who might struggle or be unsure of themselves but the fact that the OUA has older/college players, you can see how the maturity of the players changes the game a lot. The OUA was great in continuing to develop me as a player as well as being able to develop off the ice with my undergrad.”

Hailing from Cochrane, Alta., Noble spent four years at RMC. The psychology major, who has a space sciences minor, graduates this year. Two of his great-grandfathers, one of his grandfathers, and three great-uncles were in the military.

“After graduation, I’ll be headed to pilot training in the coming months as the next five years will be devoted to my training,” Noble said. “I am looking forward to finally getting started with my job, one of the main reasons I joined in the first place and contributing to the CAF to the best of my ability.”

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Noble was an important player on the Paladins’ blue line in 2022-23. This season he recorded five assists in 19 games.

“As a big defenceman, Cole moves exceptionally well,” RMC head coach Richard Lim said. “His great skating allowed him to be a top defender while allowing him to contribute offensively. Cole was a team-first player, even to the point of playing some forward when we were short forwards during parts of the season.”

Skapski, who is from Abbotsford, B.C., had a goal and an assist in 12 games last winter for RMC. The 6-foot, 175-pound defender is in his fourth year at the school.

“Marshall has been a dependable and tenacious defenseman for the program, taking pride in his ability to shut down opponents’ top players,” Lim said. “He consistently leads the team in blocked shots, a testament to his competitive nature and tenacity on the ice. Despite being undersized, Marshall has become one of the team’s most reliable defensive role players, and his competitive spirit is contagious, inspiring his teammates to raise their game.”

“His skating – specifically his edge control, his ability to exhibit confidence in puck play, and make a great first pass has made him an invaluable mentor to younger defensemen adjusting to the level of play in U Sports hockey. Overall, Marshall’s leadership and skillset make him a crucial player for the team’s success,” Lim added.

Skapski is studying psychology with a minor in history. He is pursuing an occupation as a naval warfare officer, which — in his words — “essentially commands the movement and functions of the ship.”

“I plan to serve my contract with the possibility of continuing on down this career path,” Skapski said.  “It is difficult to determine what I hope to do, but there are a lot of opportunities within the military and on the civilian side as well.  Only time will tell.”

BCHL connections

Skapski got his junior A career started with the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs in 2015-16. He split the next campaign between the Merritt Centennials and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. After recording 17 points in his first two seasons, Skapski broke out offensively in 2017-18, recording three goals and 28 points for the Capitals.

In his final junior season, Skapski had three points in 18 games for Cowichan Valley before being moved to the Melfort Mustangs. He recorded 13 points in 40 games for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League franchise.

As for Noble, he played his first two junior A seasons from 2015-17 for the Canmore Eagles in his home province of Alberta. He was then sent to the Victoria Grizzlies and Noble capped his junior career with two campaigns in the B.C. capital, recording seven assists in 50 games in his final season.

“I can’t say enough good things about the BCHL,” Noble said. “It is clearly the best junior league in Canada, and I was lucky enough to play with an unbelievably talented group in Victoria for two years. The league itself is incredibly fast and smart but also ensures that you have your head on a swivel because some big guys are skilled enough to score but also knock you to the ice if you’re not careful.”

“I was very lucky that I was able to be scouted out of the BCHL and into RMC as it allowed me to continue playing hockey as well as pursue my childhood goal of becoming a pilot,” Noble continued.