2019 SMWW Hockey Career Conference Recap

2019 SMWW Hockey Career Conference Recap
June 26, 2019 by Alyssa Rutherford


Sports Management Worldwide’s (SMWW) 2019 Hockey Career Conference at the NHL Draft has just wrapped up! 2 action-packed days full of networking opportunities, career advice from the best in the hockey industry, learning about how to get jobs in sports, and even a surprise visit from the Stanley Cup. A very well attended event featured 22 speakers throughout the day including newly appointed Edmonton Oilers GM, Ken Holland, long time NHL Agent, Rick Curran, NHLPA Director of Player Safety, George Parros, Vancouver Canucks VP of Hospitality, Ella Chan and many more.

The festivities got started on Thursday evening at The Pint Public House, in downtown Vancouver, BC for the Welcome Reception to introduce the attendees to each other and give them the opportunity to meet with some SMWW Faculty and Conference speakers. More than 100 joined us at the Hockey Career Conference Welcome Reception. All attendees got to mix and mingle to network with one another, learn from each other, and foster some great new relationships with their peers who share a great passion for hockey and for starting a career in sports.

Speaking with some of the attendees at the Welcome Reception, to get their thoughts on the night there were some very positives reviews and memories from the night.

“I loved the chance to meet everyone who was going to be at the conference is a pretty relaxed setting and it was awesome to see just how passionate everyone was about hockey and getting in a job somewhere in the area.” 

“The Welcome Reception definitely set the bar high for the rest of this trip, I met some really cool people tonight, not just people who will be attending tomorrow conference, but some of the speakers too. Everyone is super knowledgeable about the game and I really felt at home with these people who I just met.”

Our Welcome Receptions are always a fan favorite for our Conference Attendees and this year was no exception. It’s a great way to break the ice for our attendees and get them comfortable with each other and have them warmed up and ready to roll for the Conference the following day!

On the day of the conference, the room was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm for the upcoming speakers and starting off with the Keynote from Ken Holland had everyone in their seats early and eager to hear from the longtime NHL GM. Ken was able to speak for 45 minutes on his career in hockey, the trails, and tributes that come with working in the sport and at such a high level, and gave some great career advice for how people such as those at the conference could get their start. Ken spoke on the importance of passion and how critical it is to use your passion for the game to drive you to get started in your career. It’s a great way to start off the day and the morning as Ken’s advice and stories brings a lot of motivation and gives perspective to those in the audience that sees Ken through a fans point-of-view.

After Ken wrapped up his session, the attention was turned to Lisa Hollenbeck, Senior Director of Hockey Operations for the Portland Winterhawks and Mike Johnston, the GM and Head Coach of the Winterhawks. Moderator and SMWW Hockey General Management Faculty, Mike Oke hosted the panel on The Business of Minor League Hockey, however right as the group was getting started the conference was greeted and surprised with a visit from the Stanley Cup and Keeper of the Cup, Phil Pritchard! It was fantastic to have the cup in all of its glory on stage in front of everyone to have them take photos and take in its aura. Lisa, Mike, and Mike were troopers to allow the interruption but I’m sure they were just as happy to have the Stanley Cup on stage with them! The panel resumed shortly after the cup left and the day started flying from there!

We welcomed Ryan Bowness of the Pittsburgh Penguins Scouting staff, Trace Linton, a former SMWW Hockey Career Conference attendee (Buffalo 2016) and current Carolina Hurricanes Video Scouting Coordinator, along with Jeff Ulmer who serves as the Coyotes Coordinator of Skill Development. All three gentleman spoke on the life of a hockey scout and what goes into being a part of an NHL Front Office. This group fielded a wide variety of questions from the conference group as many are interested in getting their start in scouting and were interested in hearing what the life of a scout is like. Moving on from Scouting, Rick Curran and his son Mike Curran joined the stage to speak about the life of an NHL Agent.

Rick Curran is an agent with the ORR Group and has had an extensive career as an intermediary and spoke about how much hockey has changed in his career and how he has had to manage and adapt his approach to being an agent due to it. Having the father-son duo on stage was wonderful and they got to reminisce on how great it has been to be able to work with one another as professionals. Things turned analytical as Doug Marshall, founder of CVS Analytics and Garret Hohl, Co-Founder and CTO of HockeyData took the stage to speak on the incorporation of analytics into the game of hockey and just how impactful it will be. This group took many questions from the audience who were captivated by the information that analysts are able to capture and how that can be translated onto the ice. Next, came the media panel with two of the best in the business. EJ Hradek of NHL Live! and John Shannon of Sportsnet took the stage to talk about their roles in the media and as they have a great rapport with each other, they had the audience in stitches.

The lunch hour session brought Dana Clark to the stage. Dana serves as the Vancouver Canucks’ Senior Director of Human Services and spoke on what hiring managers are looking for in young professionals and what they can do to help make themselves stand out. As an HR professional, Dana brought a lot to the table for our attendees and provided plenty of valuable and tangible information for how to start or further your career. Shortly after, a panel on Sports Marketing and Hospitality took stage featuring Nicole Lee, NHL Senior Director of Sports Marketing Partnerships and Ella Chan, Vancouver Canucks’ VP of Hospitality. These two did a fantastic job of speaking about how teams and the league engage with their fans, foster sponsorships, and create new marketing pieces. A very informative panel that brought a lot to the conference has plenty of the attendees were interested in the sports hospitality space and sports marketing.

Going into the final panel of the day, folks were eager to hear from our final group. The panel on Player Safety and League Operations, which featured Patrick Burke, NHLPA Senior Director of Player Safety, Damian Echevarrieta, NHL Group VP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, and former NHL Player George Parros who now serves as the NHLPA Director of Player Safety. Some big-name guys who gave a glimpse into their world behind the scenes in hockey. The game is becoming safer and safer each year in large part to their efforts. These three gentlemen are very insightful and provide a great look of just how major sports leagues and Player Associates are doing everything they can to create a more fair and safe game.

As the day wrapped up, the attendees were full of new knowledge, plenty of excitement, and a continued eagerness to get their careers started in hockey. We were charged up to cap off the day with a night at Round 1 of the NHL Draft! The conference included 100 level tickets to the draft and the whole group got to see the wildness of the draft unfold, up close and personal.

Congrats to friend of SMWW and CAA Hockey Agent Pat Brisson who represented the first pick of the draft, Jack Hughes (Right).  

The conference included draft tickets to day two of the draft, rounds 2-7. The access to the draft picks, agents, league officials, and NHL executives on the concourse was amazing and plentiful. The networking was fascinating as it felt the entire hockey universe was in Rogers Arena.

In the end, the SMWW Hockey Career Conference at the NHL Draft was full of great insights and information from the industry’s best and the company is most proud to be able to provide an opportunity to give young professionals the chance to learn from those people and to get exposure within the industry. There is so much potential out there and it’s your time to “adrenalize today, to monetize tomorrow.” Next year, I hope to see you in Montreal, Quebec for the 2020 NHL Draft Career Conference on June 26-27th, 2020. Registration is already open! We sold out the last time we went to Montreal in 2009 and expect to do the same in 2020.

Dr. Lynn Lashbrook
Sports Management Worldwide