The semester was coming to a close, but Justin Perron didn’t have a read on it quite yet.
“I won’t know for another 20 minutes,” said Perron, a physics professor at Cal State University San Marcos who was busy compiling his students’ grades.
Twenty minutes is meaningful for Perron but usually it’s when he is wearing his skates. That’s the length of a hockey game’s three periods and when mentioning the sport to Perron, one notes an exclamation point.
“It’s just something that has been a part of me from birth,” said Perron, a Canadian native. “When I was growing up everybody played hockey, whether it was in the hallway, outside on the street or on the ice. I just fell in love with it.”
When something tugs at one’s heart it is hard to resist. So, despite Perron having his hands full teaching classes and with his research responsibilities — plus having a family with two children under 6 — he still finds time to skate.
“It’s kind of hard to explain why I like it so much but it just kind of allows me to get away from everything else,” said Perron, a San Marcos resident. “It’s fun and it’s a good release. That is the point of all sports or hobbies, in general, is to find something that when you’re doing it, you’re not thinking about anything else.”
With Perron, there is much on his mind. Consider his one-time explanation of his work with solid-state electronics like transistors.
“Typically, when you think of electricity and conduction, you have a wire, and electrons flow,” he said. “Normally, even physicists, when you’re thinking about it in that sense, you’re thinking about it like you think about water flowing, a continuous liquid. Water is made of hydrogen and oxygen, but you never actually think about a molecule moving. It’s just fluid water.”
Whew, any chance we can steer this conversation back to hockey?
Perron is goal-oriented in the academic world, too. He joined the CSUSM faculty in 2015 after three years at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That came after he completed his PhD at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
When doing his undergraduate work at SUNY-Oswego, hockey was part of his routine. He was a forward on a squad that reached the Division III Frozen Four, the sport’s answer to the Final Four in men’s basketball.
“Go Lakers,” Perron, 38, said.
In Southern California, that means hoops. In Oswego, that means hockey.
Perron thought about playing professionally in Europe or at other levels below the NHL. But he could read defenses as well as the writing in the ice. He ditched hockey, but it remains an itch he continues to scratch.
He plays in the highest weekly league at Ice-Plex in Escondido where many colleagues have backgrounds similar to Perron’s.
“There are lot of talented people out there,” Perron said. “It’s competitive and everyone wants to win, but no one is slashing you or doing anything stupid. It’s just really good hockey,”
Which is sweet for Perron because on that saltwater with waves, he’s like someone with two left skates.
“I bought one of those $99 boards at Costco and promised myself I was going to learn to surf,” he said.
It’s been an education that has come with ribbing. Perron’s wife, Lindsay, glides across the breaks like Perron does on the ice and she enjoys reminding him of just that.
“My wife is a big surfer and my daughter, Winnie, loves the water,” Perron said. “I tried to lure my daughter toward the ice, but she wasn’t interested.”
In the interest of staying afloat, Perron might stick with hockey. At least there he can make the grade.