Combining ice and boardroom skills to ‘elevate the game’
A good hockey player knows where the puck is headed – and has to be nimble in the moment as well as able to think ahead.
For 34-year-old NHL veteran Eric Nystrom, this means continuing to train and play while adding the skills to his resumé that give him a competitive advantage.
Nystrom, who played 11 years in the NHL after making his debut with the Calgary Flames in 2005 and currently plays for the Stavanger Oilers in Norway, says professional players often struggle to “imagine life after hockey.“
A career playing hockey is typically only a short window, and there can be much more ahead after it’s done,” he explains. “I’m working to complete an MBA at Athabasca University. With my hockey experience and an education in the business aspect of running a hockey organization, that’s really the best-case scenario for me.”
While many of his teammates share the same sports experience, they typically don’t have extended knowledge about “the business side of the game,” says Nystrom, who participates in a program that comes out of a collaboration between Athabasca University and the Business of Hockey Institute.
One of the advantages of being enrolled in Athabasca University, which is based in Alberta but available online around the world, is that Nystrom can complete his degree while he’s still an active member of the team.
Nystrom, who has been playing in Norway for the last three months, says one of the first things he’s learned is managing his time effectively. “Juggling the workload isn’t easy. For the MBA program, you have to be committed to put in the time and do several hours of research and homework every day,” he explains.
That means hitting the books (or screen) after practice, when he is often tired from meetings, ice-time and working out in the gym. Game days can be even more challenging. “We often fly out or spend a lot of time on the road, in addition to the games. When we get to our accommodation, it’s late,” says Nystrom.
Despite the intense schedule, he is excited about his studies and finds the process rewarding. “It’s really great to be back into the classroom, and I’ve already learned so much,” he says. “And since it’s an executive MBA program, we all have full-time jobs. Many of my classmates work nine-to-five jobs, and some come home to families and children.”
Nystrom enjoys interacting with his classmates and has a lot of respect for them. He adds that the online platform allows him to fully participate in classroom discussions despite the time difference.
Having the skills to take a leadership role on the ice as well in the boardroom will allow him to continue to be successful in the fast-paced and competitive world of hockey, Nystrom believes. His goal? To support the game, players, teams and leagues by creating opportunities and support, and winning fans’ attention and loyalty.
“The more we know about hockey, the more we allow the game to grow.”– Eric Nystrom