An Insiders View of the SMWW NHL Draft Career Conference

nhl draft hockey career conferenceThe start of summer marks one of the most exciting times in the world of hockey: the NHL Draft. As any hockey industry insider would tell you, coming hand-in-hand with the Draft is the annual Sports Management Worldwide NHL Draft Hockey Career Conference. With over a decade in the books, this conference holds court as one of the industry’s most engaging and energizing meetings of leaders and up-and-comers in the hockey world.

In June 2017, the Windy City was the setting for the Hockey Career conference, but what blew attendees away was the opportunity to rub shoulders, share ideas, and build connections to further their career goals.

It all started with the networking reception held at the famed Chicago Sports Museum. After Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, SMWW President & Founder and the unofficial Michael Jordan of the business of sport, kicked the evening off with one of his patented motivational addresses, attendees engaged in easy conversation while enjoying interactive Chicago-themed sports exhibits.

Between shooting jump-shots with the Bulls’ Scottie Pippen and stopping Blackhawks’ sniper Patrick Kane’s wrist-shots, attendees enjoyed a buffet and premium bar service. When everyone had their fill of fun, games, and networking, the business cards were put away for the evening in preparation for a full day of growth and learning.john ferguson boston bruins nhl draft career conference

Acclaimed hockey executive John Ferguson Jr., the Boston Bruins’ Executive Director of Player Personnel and Providence Bruins General Manager, kicked the conference off over coffee on Friday morning. While offering profound advice for the aspiring GMs, scouts, and agents in the room, Ferguson brought energy and laughter with rare stories from the NHL Draft floor.

He was careful not to offend 2016 conference speaker and Calgary Flames GM Brian Burke with the story of how he barely missed drafting NHL veteran and Stanley Cup champion Brian Gionta.

The Stanley Cup stayed in the conversation throughout the morning. The first panel of the day was Inside Hockey Operations – Managing the Team and Scouting the Players. While hearing stories and asking questions to NHL, AHL, and OHL brass, the Stanley Cup itself made a surprise appearance with famed Keeper of the Cup, Phil Pritchard, sharing the story of the trophy.

Attendees got another Cup-themed opportunity during The Business Side of Hockey panel, as Blackhawks Director of Corporate Sponsorships, Sara Bailey, passed around her championship ring for all to see. Rounding out the morning were three NHLPA Agents sharing their stories on the Player Representation in Hockey panel.stanley cup makes an appearance at NHL Career Conference

The action didn’t stop after a world-class Mexican buffet lunch put on by the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile staff. Three afternoon panels, including Life of a Hockey Broadcaster, Identifying and Developing the NHL’s Future Stars, and Cutting Edge Methods to Analyze Hockey, gave attendees more than their money’s worth with engaging Q&A with experts from all levels of the game.

Friday afternoon came to a close with Bill Guertin, President of The 800 Pound Gorilla, lighting a proverbial fire under hundreds of the next crop of hockey industry executives, rounding out the day in style as conference-goers were shuttled down to the NHL Entry Draft to witness Nico Hischier make history as the first Swiss player ever selected first overall. With 100-level seats at the history United Center, days one and two of the Draft were thrilling as attendees watched their favorite teams, and future employers, set the course of their franchise for years to come.

After enjoying the close-up view of over 600 NHL decision-makers determining the future of hockey in seven thrilling rounds, the NHL Draft Hockey Career Conference officially wrapped up for 2017, but in true SMWW fashion the fun didn’t stop. Many of the current and future hockey leaders took in a Chicago White Sox game (Mark Buehrle’s jersey retirement), a Chicago architecture boat cruise, and the Windy City nightlife.

With the 2017 Conference wrapped up, plans are already in motion for the 2018 NHL Draft Hockey Career Conference. With the NHL rumoured to announce Dallas, Texas as the host of the 2018 Draft, you simply can’t miss the networking, exposure, and fun of next year’s event. Mark your calendars now!

Check out our gallery of photos from the NHL Draft Career Conference on Facebook - tag yourself in the photos!

This first person account of the 2017 SMWW NHL Draft Career Conference was penned by Burton Lee, Executive Director of Business Development for the Peterborough Petes of the Canadian Hockey League. 

dr. Lynn LashbrookAbout the Author: Dr. Lynn Lashbrook is the President and Founder of Sports Management Worldwide, the first ever online sports management school with a mission to educate future sports business executives.

Dr. Lashbrook has been involved in the sports industry for over 40 years and is a respected voice in the industry, having contributed to ESPN, Comcast SportsNet, Forbes, SiriusXM, CNBC, Rugby World, The New York Times, the London Free Press, Yahoo Sports and many more. 

As a certified NFL agent, Dr. Lashbrook has represented over 100 NFL clients, including former 1st rounder Mark Fields, 9-time Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins and Miami Dolphins Quarterback Matt Moore. He is a passionate and enthusiastic teacher, known for helping students strategize ways to reach their career goals in the world of sports.