Canada’s first Hockey MBA is turning passion for hockey into a career
Hockey is more than a sport in Canada, it’s a way of life.
This country’s never-ending passion for the game has created an entire ecosystem of agencies, merchandizers, land developers, management companies, and marketing firms, not to mention the franchises themselves. But for those who want to turn their love for the game into a viable career, it can be a difficult industry to break into.
That’s why The Business of Hockey Institute (BHI) created the Certified Hockey Professional (CHP) designation.
The program runs a select group of students from both the hockey and business worlds through the gauntlet on the path to earning the world’s only MBA in Hockey Management. It’s modeled after Athabasca University’s MBA for executives program and is designed to allow busy professionals to gain graduate education without sacrificing other life and professional commitments.
The CHP designation is the brainchild of BHI, which was founded in 2015 to improve the economic viability of professional and amateur hockey through education, research, consulting, and advocacy.
“The CHP designation was originally created to serve the needs of hockey managers and executives, many of whom ended up working in the offices of teams and leagues primarily because of their prowess on the ice,” says Michael Mauws, executive director of the BHI. “They bump into a glass ceiling because they don’t necessarily possess the business skills they need to progress.”
Six individual credit courses, designed in partnership between BHI and Athabasca University, are required to achieve a CHP designation: The Business of Hockey, Marketing Hockey Strategically, Integrated Marketing Communications for Hockey, Game Day Management & Marketing, Hockey Operations, and Managing Franchises Strategically.
The program is about to welcome its first cohort of graduates in the summer of 2018 that includes professional hockey players, sports agents, and business executives with a drive to demonstrate their talents to the world of hockey.
“AU offers significant capacity to deliver peer-to-peer interaction,” says Mauws. “Peers from inside hockey will jump in to help someone from the business world and those with business experience will help those from the hockey world. There’s as much learning from each other as from the faculty members.”
Hockey agent and BHI co-founder Ritch Winter helped launch the program. “Our players work hard to develop their game, why not help club management to sharpen its game as well,” he says. “Building stronger business expertise in hockey will also encourage other talented executives and managers to pursue a career in the hockey business.”
Winter takes a hands-on approach to student selection, and forms part of the team who interviews applicants to make sure they possess the proper motivation and can bring value to the program.
“We ask them if they have the energy required to be successful in the hockey business,” he says. “It’s one of the most competitive businesses on the planet and it will not be an easy ride. Hard work will be the foundation of your success.”
Kerry McGowan is owner of Trilogy Oilfield Ltd., in Provost, Alberta, an oilfield services rental company employing 25 people. He’s coached minor hockey and is a stakeholder in The Nation Network, a series of online hockey blogs featuring a large social networking component.
“They asked me what I would bring to hockey and I told them it was my business side,” he says. “You need to be able to look at business close up as well as from the 5,000-foot view—to look through the telescope and the microscope at the same time.”
McGowan is currently enrolled in the MBA for Hockey Management at Athabasca while pursuing his CHP designation. He says he appreciates the ability of the diverse student roster to bring unique perspectives to class lessons.
“When you’re doing your assignments it’s like blogging back and forth,” he says. “There’s a lot of online interaction between students and we help each other to see beyond the biases of our own experiences.”
Students completing the program should leave with a broad understanding of business in general and the hockey business in particular, notes Winter.
“Great teams understand how all of the departments work together. And in professional hockey, management wins. It turns teams around, improves the on-ice product, raises revenues, and drives success.”– Ritch Winter