AU at the NHL Draft Day 1 – Blog from the Sunshine State

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Brian Burke, president, Hockey Operations , Calgary Flames; Founding Director, Business of Hockey Institute, Athabasca University.

Our students arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, yesterday to participate in the NHL Draft.

Last night, they met with Business of Hockey Institute directors Ritch Winter, LLB, managing director (North America) 4sports & Entertainment AG, and Craig Button, director of Scouting, and hockey analyst with TSN.

Both Ritch and Craig talked about the importance of the Draft but from very different perspectives—Ritch as an agent and Craig as a former hockey executive and now as an analyst.

For Craig, the Draft represents the end of one journey for these young players.

“I’ve watched and gotten to know a lot of these young guys over years,” said Craig.

“The Draft is like graduation for them. These players have reached a major milestone in their lives. It’s not just about becoming a professional hockey player, it’s the culmination of years of effort and single-minded focus.”

Ritch Winter echoed Craig’s comments. “We’re bringing in players who will go in the first and second round. We’ve also brought their families and others who are important to them. The parents and the players are excited, they’re nervous, and other than the first few picks, nothing is guaranteed. A player could end up almost anywhere.”

And that’s what makes the Draft so interesting.

“Teams have their lists, their plans for who they want, the positions they need filled and who’s likely to develop,” said Craig.

“For some, the guys the teams draft will be playing this season, for a lot of the others though it’s a year or more down the road. Everyone will be watching the GMs, watching for trades, and deals being made on the floor.”

It will be a somewhat different lens for Craig this year as the TSN team is the U.S. host broadcaster working at NBC.

“Our U.S. audience will be knowledgeable and engaged. We have to put a bit more emphasis on the U.S. teams and the colleges the players are with or could be going back to. The preparation is the same regardless of being the Canadian or U.S. broadcast. Our research is done, we’ve got the vast majority of our show and our commentary ready to go. There will be some great stories this year.”

This morning our Business of Hockey cohort is meeting with ProAthlete Financial Group in Boca Raton. ProAthlete manages financial affairs for NBA, MLB, and NHL players including Alex Ovcechkin, Marian Hossa, and Fredereick Andersen.

Also joining our students are Ritch Winter and Nevin Markwart, former vice-chair of Canoe Financial. Nevin is no stranger to the NHL Draft. He was a first-round pick for the Boston Bruins in 1983.