Ryerson University and the National Hockey League Alumni have teamed up to move coaching from the locker room to the classroom. The new “BreakAway Program” offers current and retired hockey players the opportunity to enhance their business education for success off the ice by covering topics of finance, leadership, privacy law, marketing, and personal branding.
According to Pat Flatley, the program’s director, the Ted Rogers School of Business Management at Ryerson and the NHL Alumni’s unique partnership is what makes the program so effective.
“The BreakAway Program offers all current and former players the opportunity to work with one of the top schools in North America that truly understands the unique circumstances of professional athletes,” Flatley said.
Wendy McCreary of the NHL Alumni Association said that BreakAway’s main objective is to help players find a career in the world beyond hockey.
“Their love is the game; that’s all they know,” McCreary said. She added that the program hopes to provide players with enough confidence to successfully transition into a post-hockey career.
“We hope to give them the ability to pursue a different identity when they come out of the game,” she said.
Program liaison and Ryerson marketing professor Marla Spergel believes the BreakAway Program is something from which all NHLers can benefit.
“When players leave hockey, they are at a void,” Spergel said.
The program will customize its courses to supply players with the specific tools they might need to fill the void created by a lack of formal business training.
The BreakAway Program consists of 15 hours of material and has a completion deadline of six months. Its online format is player-accessible and designed to accommodate their busy schedules and fast-paced work environment.
“We wanted to produce a program that gives them the ability to educate themselves online at their own convenience,” McCreary said. Although the players do not receive a degree, Spergel provides guidance counselling to those players who wish to continue further studies with other university or college programs.
“As an outsider I am pretty impressed that there is such a commitment from the alumni to want to really get them prepared for when they leave,” Spergel said. Although there are currently only a handful of students enrolled in the program, she notes that BreakAway is in the process of developing an extensive marketing plan to reach more NHLers.
“Since it is all very new, a lot of players have no clue this thing exists yet,” she said.
McCreary declares that part of the program’s mandate is to also reach other universities. “A good portion of our constituency is based in Montreal,” she said. BreakAway will be asking McGill if it would like to start its own branch of the program some time in the future.