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Detroit – The motivation was all around Danny DeKeyser.

The Detroit Red Wings defenseman would walk past his wife Melissa’s office at home and see her college diploma hanging on the wall. DeKeyser was also aware of some Red Wings teammates completing their collegiate studies through online courses.

And, of course, there was his mother, Linda, occasionally asking if he was going back to get his degree from Western Michigan.

DeKeyser was close; after leaving WMU for the Red Wings in 2013 he was only 35 credits short of graduating.

“My mom would ask from time to time, and seeing my wife’s diploma, and knowing how close I was to getting mine, I was thinking about how I’d like to get mine and put it right there, too,” DeKeyser said. “That was motivation.

“When I left school, it was something I knew I’d like to finish up.”

On June 29, DeKeyser’s work paid off. He walked across the stage at WMU’s Miller Auditorium and received a diploma, having earned a general studies degree.

DeKeyser spent nearly the past three years, mainly during road trips, or in the last year when infant daughter McKinley Ann was napping, plugging away at homework.

“It was a real good feeling,” said DeKeyser of walking across the stage. “I felt like I had accomplished something. It was fun, it was a bit of a relief knowing I was done and didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

“When I left school (in 2013) it was something I knew I would like to finish up. But then I started playing hockey (for the Wings) and I put it on the back burner.”

DeKeyser realized a few years ago the time might be right to get that degree.

“I didn’t have a ton going on, just training in the summer for hockey and skating, I had extra time on my hands,” DeKeyser said. “I figured it would be a good time to start back up.”

During hockey season, on the road, when his teammates would be watching movies, or playing video games, or hitting the beach in warm-weather cities, DeKeyser was on his laptop completing course work.

“When I was in the hotel and didn’t have a whole lot going on, or if it was a practice day, I would just grab room service and do a few hours of homework,” DeKeyser said.

“Definitely it (the courses) was time consuming. Then last year when my daughter was born, it was something else in the mix. But I knew I had to keep going. I just had five or six classes to do and I figured I was so close, I can’t stop now.”

DeKeyser was a public relations major and criminal justice minor when he originally attended Western Michigan. To complete those degrees would have meant attending classes on campus, and that wasn’t going to work.

DeKeyser concentrated on classes online to complete his general studies degree.

“It was a little bit different,” said DeKeyser. “I was used to going to class. Everyone kind of thinks an online class is a lot easier, but it’s really not. You have to really pay attention and find the information and dig a little more to get the information.

“You have to apply yourself a little bit more and keep up on top of things.”

The defenseman credits Wings teammate Justin Abdelkader, who went back to complete his degree from Michigan State about three years ago, with getting him kick-started.

“I remember talking to him about it and not long after that, I kind of started taking my classes again,” DeKeyser said. “Seeing him do it definitely pushed me to get mine finished up. We had both played three years (in college) and had a year left.

“That gave me motivation.”

DeKeyser also credited former assistant coach Tony Granato, who earned his degree from Wisconsin before taking over as the Badgers’ head coach in 2016.

“That was pretty cool, and I thought about if I would want to coach college hockey one day, or something like that, I would need to complete the degree, and now I have it,” DeKeyser said.

Much of DeKeyser’s family, and many of his friends, were in attendance his graduation day. DeKeyser is a native of Macomb.

“A big group that day, it was fun,” DeKeyser said. “We went to lunch afterward and headed back to the East Side (Macomb County) and had a graduation party the next day.

“The whole shebang.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tkulfan

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