5 min read

Pivot #8: Tailored Services, Interview Tips, NHL Players taking class at Harvard

Pivot #8: Tailored Services, Interview Tips, NHL Players taking class at Harvard

1st Period - Tailored Services Required

I chatted with a former NCAA Division I hockey player, who opined on the latter part of his university experience when the finish line of his hockey career first became in sight. Realizing the lower levels of professional hockey was the ceiling, the player walked into the university’s career services department for the first time looking for some guidance. The player was quickly approaching his mid-twenties after spending the better part of a decade grinding his way to his goal of playing college hockey. 

Greeting the player inside the career services office was a pimple-faced 19-year-old student worker, who appeared like he just spent his first year away from home. The first task was crafting a professional resume. The student counselor had the blueprint that was likely provided by the department. The right-sized template displays the history of the typical student and allows the information to plug-and-play. Insert degree major here, internship #1 goes here, internship #2 fills in above that, then you pencil-in some extra-curricular activities, and as simple as that, typical students can showcase their life trajectory to date. 

The challenge in this particular circumstance was the novice counselor had no clue about hockey. The player had no internship experience as he spent most of his summers training for the next season and helping with some on-ice camps for some beer money. The two peers couldn’t relate. They had completely different life experiences, and yet, the younger worker somehow had to provide guidance to the older hockey player on how to make a career transition. To no fault of the student counselor, there was no appreciation for what the player just went through over the past decade to get where he is today. No concept of the journey, let alone how to translate that journey to a prospective lay person hiring manager. 

The path to pursue a hockey career is unique relative to other sports and especially the ‘regular’ university student. Players mostly go about it on their own in trying to self-reflect and decipher the characteristics and skills they’ve built-up over their path in the sport. I’m sure many schools provide a better career counseling experience than this and may even have a dedicated team career services professional. However, even in that instance, I’m sure the relatability is questionable. 

At Pivot we can be the resource at the transition point in a player’s career. Providing the relatability and appreciation for the hockey career carved, while also sharing insight on how players can market themselves to non-hockey people in a clear, compelling way. Whether you are pivoting from your hockey career now or in the midst of climbing the ladder of your career, Pivot

2nd Period - Simple Interview Tips

Great, succinct interview preparation tips that will get you ahead of the playing field.

3rd Period - Harvard and the NHLPA

Catching my attention was a 2021 NHLPA article highlighting a few NHL player’s experience in Harvard’s Crossover Into Business class with Professor Anita Elberse. Brian Elliott, Sam Gagner, Darnell Nurse and James Van Riemsdyk are profiled. 

In short, the program is “designed to help professional athletes be better prepared for business activities during and after their active sports careers, this program matches each athlete with a pair of student mentors so athletes can learn business fundamentals in a customized and flexible way.” The program seems well-designed with an array of HBS case studies to analyze (written by Elberse, herself). There’s adequate structure given the 2:1 ratio of MBA students-to-athletes, which keeps the learning on the rails, yet flexible enough to accommodate the athlete’s schedule with the majority of the curriculum conducted virtually. Oh, and the course is free.

If anything, the course is a great opportunity for players to break their frame of reference, surround themselves with high achieving people, and figure out what’s possible after a hockey career. The course began in 2017 and I was surprised to see only 9 NHL players count themselves as program alumni. In comparison, the player counts from other major North American sporting leagues are: NBA 41, NFL 36, MLS 20, WNBA 15, MLB 7.  

It’s no surprise the NBA is leading the endeavor, since the program was born out of a partnership between HBS and the league. Elberse and HBS offer another similar class titled, The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports that is open to professional athletes and media/sport executives. The class has hosted the likes of Dwayne Wade, Alex Rodriguez and Larry Fitzgerald, among many others. Professor Elberse posts a recap video of each year’s class on her YouTube page. I watched most of them and didn’t see one hockey person. It’s certainly possible they were there and not on video or I missed them, but it sure was easy to see the other athletes. The only hockey-related coverage I found on this class was Zdeno Chara and PK Subban’s experience in the class profiled in this Athletic article. On top of that, I went through all of the tens (maybe hundreds) of papers Elberse published in her career and found exactly zero on anything related to hockey or the NHL. 

What I am getting at is, I want to raise the bar for hockey players than what is currently provided. There needs to be more resources like this HBS program. There needs to be more advocates for players to succeed in their post-career. Part of Pivot’s mission is to do just that. I want to help NHL players succeed professionally, as well as, democratize the curriculum for all playing levels–AHL, ECHL, NCAA, junior hockey. I’m brainstorming the best way to do this: case studies, interviews, small group discussion, formalized courses, this newsletter. Right now Pivot is working 1-v-1 with players. True grass roots. We encourage crowdsourced creative ideas on ways to build the resource for both current and ex-players. Please share your thoughts. In the meantime, we’re going to slowly build.

Game Notes

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  • The latest on mortgage rates - yahoo! finance
  • Professional tennis is broken - The Athletic
  • The Succession Drama Gripping One of Baseball’s Most Storied Teams - WSJ