MRU sport and recreation graduate Riley Varhaug already carving out his place in the athletic world

Riley Varhaug


Meet Riley. Creative. Ambitious. Exceptional.
Hometown: Tsawwassen, BC
Program: Bachelor of Health and Physical Education | Major: Sport and recreation management


After struggling to find a post-secondary program that created a spark for learning, Mount Royal University’s Bachelor of Health and Physical Education — Sport and Recreation Management major seemingly found Riley Varhaug. It was in late 2019 that a family friend alerted Varhaug to the program at MRU and the rest is history (which, as it turns out, is Varhaug’s minor).

You may recognize Varhaug from sitting next to him in class or walking past him on campus, but if you don’t, you’ll certainly recognize his contribution to the professional sporting world.

Shortly after he started at MRU, he made an interesting — and fruitful — connection with someone on LinkedIn: Aaron Wiggan, the vice-president of brand creative for the Seattle Kraken.

“After initially chatting and reminiscing over our similarities, Aaron and I quickly became good friends and that eventually evolved into the mentor/protégé relationship that we have today,” Varhaug explains.

A few months later, Wiggan approached Varhaug with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help in the creation of the Kraken’s alternate jersey. Varhaug leveraged MRU’s Archives and Special Collections, which contains the Blaine Canadian Sports History Collection, donated by lifelong collector Bob Blaine in 2019. Among the items are a body of hockey works including documents from several professional Seattle programs from the ’40s to the ’70s.

Varhaug and Wiggan filtered through the collection and drew on Seattle’s past flirtations with puck play to ultimately create the path to the new jersey’s design as well as retro-themed ads and branding for the NHL expansion team.

“Overall, it was an amazing process to be a part of and so cool to see the level of detail the Kraken put into the entire process. Not to mention that our university is now forever connected with the newest NHL team.”

That was just one of many doors opened for Varhaug, thanks in part to his transformative MRU education. His major also allowed him to carry out his practicum with the B.C. Lions and to ​​work on an 11-part series with TSN and the Hockey Hall of Fame profiling all inductees from 2000 to 2023.

"If you put in the time, the effort, and hustle, you will be rewarded."
Riley Varhaug

Through it all, Varhaug credits the amazing team of educators in the Department of Health and Physical Education and the interesting ways they engaged with and opened the minds of their pupils by sharing their personal experiences and providing field trips and guest speakers. But there is one professor who stood out above the rest.

“Dr. David Legg. I remember I had David as a professor in my very first year of study. His class opened my eyes and lit a fire in me that I still have to this day.”

Varhaug’s greatest lesson learned at MRU? Leverage your assets.

“Your teachers, classmates and the courses themselves can be of great value in the future,” he says.

“Teachers are a great resource in providing wisdom from their own life experiences. They can also provide you with great mentorship opportunities and be an advocate on your behalf if you put in the time and effort to succeed.”

He likens classmates to magic beans: grow relationships now so you have a garden — or maybe a giant beanstalk — down the line.

"You never know what the future will hold. There could come a time later in life where your paths cross once again. Having a strong relationship previously established will further enhance your odds of getting a future job, whether it be through them or someone they know.”

He also wants current and new students donning Mount Royal blue to know that if you put in the work, the rest will come.

Riley leaves Mount Royal with a sports and recreation management degree and aspirations of making more connections with professional sports teams.

“I have my eyes set on breaking into the biggest market for sports in the US. Being able to do so means being of exceptional status, something that I have tried to showcase through a high level of work ethic.”

His ultimate goal is to design an entire team’s brand from scratch, and with one jersey already under his belt before graduation this goal looks to be very much within reach.