During the NHL’s Draft Weekend in New York, I was privileged to attend the Hockey Career Conference run by Sports Management Worldwide, an organization based out of Portland, Oregon which helps educate those aspiring to obtain a career in the world of sports management.
As part of their Draft Weekend festivities, SMWW drew a plethora of notable names for their conference including Stanley Cup-winning general managers Ken Holland and Brian Burke, agents like Pat Brisson, who represents Sidney Crosby and John Tavares among others and scouts such as Jon Christiano who is currently the Director of Pro Scouting for the Buffalo Sabres.
Sports Management Worldwide was founded in 2002 by Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, who has a very detailed resume.
Aside from being an NFL Agent who represents over 100 clients in the league and President of SMWWWagency, Dr. Lashbrook was a scout, recruiter, coach, athletic director, Professor of the Year, President of the MLB to Oregon campaign and President of NCAA Academic Advisors just to name a few of his positions.
I had heard of SMWW before but only vaguely. I decided to sit in and see what SMWW was all about.
Upon my arrival, an affable Dr. Liz Lashbrook, Lynn’s wife and business partner, informed me that SMWW is in partnership with Concordia University Chicago to offer aspiring students the opportunity to receive their Bachelors, Masters and/or Doctorates in the field of sports in a wide range of programs from Player Personnel to PR and Community Relations to Salary Cap Analysis.
In addition to the wide range of programs offered through SMWW are a plethora of mentors eager to help the agents and broadcasters of tomorrow including former Boston Bruins’ general manager Harry Sinden, legendary NFL Player Personnel Executive John Wooten, Director of Communications for Nike Team Sports, Rodney Knox and Grey Cup-winning and current Chicago Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman just to name a select few.
At the SMWW Conference on Draft Weekend at the Marriott Marquis in New York, I had the opportunity to listen to a couple of speakers in particular: the aforementioned Ken Holland and Pat Brisson.
As someone who has had a stutter since an early age, I have had my share of difficulty communicating verbally, mostly via telephone. As important as verbal communication is in the world of sports, I asked Mr. Holland how an aspiring scout, agent or general manager would go about pursuing his or her goals despite such an obstacle.
“There are so many different ways to get into the National Hockey League,” Holland said. “Everybody sees the coach and maybe the manager but there are so many different jobs and different roles and there are NFL coaches who start out carrying the coach’s clipboard.
“I think the biggest thing is, to your point, get into some level, the junior level, get into college, try to meet people and get some experience. We have video coaches, there’s analytics, there’s teams who have people in the room that they just run numbers. We’re not there yet but we’re internally discussing it. But I know there are teams in the National Hockey League that do it. There’s talk about video libraries, teams have video libraries.
“Everybody thinks that if you want to get in the business, you want to get to the Detroit Red Wings. You might go to work for a digital company and that digital company is hired by the Detroit Red Wings and you’re doing a good job and one day down the road, we hire you. So, there are different ways to get into the industry. But the biggest thing is to pursue your passion.”
While I fully appreciated Mr. Holland’s informative response, I especially appreciated his patience with me – and that is a testament to the character of the Red Wings’ GM in addition to his ability to operate arguably the most consistently successful franchise in North America.
As for Pat Brisson, it was a pleasure listening to how he got his start in the business that led to him becoming a high-profile agent.
For all of you Los Angeles Kings fans, you will be very interested to know that Mr. Brisson began his career by marketing for his former linemate in junior – not to mention his best friend – one Luc Robitaille in 1987, his sophomore year with the Kings. In the marketing aspect, Brisson helped Robitaille with his appearances – so for all of you ladies who have always had a crush on Lucky Luc for his dashing good looks, you can definitely thank Pat Brisson for that.
With all joking aside, though, an SMWW alumni told Brisson that he had never played hockey at a highly-competitive level before asking if it was possible for someone to become a hockey agent despite not playing the sport at a high level.
“Absolutely,” Brisson responded. “There are so many different ways. It’s not written in any books on how to become an agent. If you’re passionate, if you have a way to get to people, you have to learn, you have to understand the business and the family of the player feels good with the service you provide and you’re honest with them – because it’s all about trust. It’s important for you to be able to sell that trust and make them feel comfortable and learn how to provide that advice.
“You could connect with someone who knows the game better than you but doesn’t have your talent in how to protect the player. So, you have to understand who you are – no different than the player; he has to understand what kind of player he is – and you build around your strengths and abilities.”
Overall, my experience listening in on not only the guest speakers at the conference but hearing the stories and ambitions of the current and past students of Sports Management Worldwide who not only found the experience rewarding but who have been able to gain employment –with the help of SMWW – with hockey organizations whether at the professional, semi-professional or junior ranks. As for the current students, I was amazed by the knowledge and articulation each of them had, their desire, their passion so evident that they did not even lack a fraction of the confidence they need to excel as an agent, a scout, a broadcaster or even as an executive. They may not be able to become a super-agent like the aforementioned Pat Brisson tomorrow but with the help and guidance of Sports Management Worldwide, they are definitely headed in the right direction.
Dr. Lynn Lashbrook who, like the aforementioned Ken Holland, was very patient with me in terms of my speech impediment, told me that the 1996 Oscar-nominated film Jerry Maguire inspired him to start SMWW. With that, Dr. Lashbrook and I found some common ground as we agreed on what an inspirational movie Jerry Maguire was to both of us.
Personally speaking, I took some accounting classes following the release of Jerry Maguire as I had a sudden passion for becoming a sports agent myself and while that passion wavered my passion for the sports arena in general did not.
While lines like “Show me the money,” and “You had me at hello,” have since become painfully reiterative, what I loved was when the title character took a page out of my book (or so I’d like to think) telling little Ray that “In only six years, Troy Aikman has thrown for 16,303 yards,” or that Major League Baseball’s all-time hits records is “4,256 held by Pete Rose who is NOT in the Hall of Fame.” I even took exception to then-Arizona Cardinals’ wideout Rob Moore wearing Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s Oscar-winning character Rod Tidwell’s jersey number: 85.
But I digress.
Speaking with Dr. Lashbrook, his enthusiasm was difficult to hide – but why would he want to hide that enthusiasm anyway? For those of us who have always wanted to go to school and pursue what we truly want to do in life, we tend to make excuses for ourselves not to – and the biggest excuses are a lack of time and money.
With Sports Management Worldwide, those aspiring to become the one who represents hockey’s (or baseball’s or football’s) next big thing or who wish to set the foundation for the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Cleveland Indians or, dare I say it, the Chicago Cubs to end their respectively infamous championship droughts (just go along with it), the most ideal opportunity awaits – and Sports Management Worldwide will be there to help you every step of the way.