A partnership shaping strong leaders in hockey

BHI_Full_Black_JPEGHockey is part of the fabric of this nation. The hockey industry competes in a complex and challenging global market with more at stake than maximizing game day revenue. Teams, leagues, governing bodies need talented managers and executives with broad strategic and operational capabilities. Organizations, teams and leagues need smart and capable people who can shape opportunities and develop strategic advantage.

Athabasca University (AU) has partnered with the Business of Hockey Institute (BHI), a non-profit think tank dedicated to improving the business models of professional and amateur hockey organizations through education, research, consulting, and advocacy.

The BHI was founded collectively by Brian Burke, former President, Hockey Operations – Calgary Flames and Ritch Winter, President, Wintersports Ltd., along with an esteemed Advisory Council including: senior NHL executives, NHL player agents, junior and minor league Presidents and Commissioners, and senior executives from national governing bodies in hockey.  This Advisory Council has worked alongside AU’s globally respected, prominent academics to develop a hockey-specific MBA for executives – the first of its kind in the world. The BHI Board of Directors are engaged and involved with design of courses and delivery. We bring the best minds in the game to you.

Certified Hockey Professional (CHP) Designation

As part of its mandate, BHI has launched a new credential, Certified Hockey Professional (CHP). This designation will be awarded to individuals with demonstrated experience in and knowledge of hockey management. Graduates of the AU online MBA who have completed the specialized hockey management curriculum are awarded the Certified Hockey Professional designation by the Business Hockey Institute.

Business of Hockey Institute


Brian Burke, LLB
Former President of Hockey Operations
Calgary Flames

Brian Burke brings an impressive resume and reputation to the Flames organization overseeing all hockey operations for the growing sports and entertainment group. His experience is vast ranging from his professional playing career to several executive positions both at the league and team level.

His most recent position was as a Pro Scout and Consultant with the Anaheim Ducks. However, he assumed that role after serving as the President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from November 29, 2008 through January 9, 2013.

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Burke’s recent time with Anaheim was preceded by two years as the club’s General Manager from 2005 through 2007. Under his leadership, the Ducks were crowned the 2007 Stanley Cup Champions. Burke stepped down as GM of the Ducks on November 12, 2008.

His career on the executive side of the hockey business began as an NHL player agent but he was hired in 1987, to be the Director of Hockey Operations for the Vancouver Canucks. In the 1992–93 season, he left that job to take his first General Manager position with the Hartford Whalers. Burke stepped down after one year in Hartford, so he could join the NHL front office as Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, under Commissioner Gary Bettman.

In 1998, he returned to Vancouver as General Manager of the Canucks. With the Canucks, he was credited with reviving the franchise with the drafting and signing of several key players as the team won a playoff series and captured a division title. Burke’s overall record with the Canucks was 219-181-68-24.

Burke has also acted in an executive capacity for USA Hockey including being the General Manager for the United States national team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Burke is a graduate of Providence College. While attending Providence, he played for the Friars Division-I hockey team. As a professional he played in the AHL, capturing the Calder Cup with the Maine Mariners in 1978. After one year in the AHL, Burke attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1981.

Ritch Winter
Ritch Winter, LLB
Wintersports Ltd.

Ritch Winter was born in Edmonton and raised in Drumheller, Alberta. Beginning his post secondary education at Red Deer College in business, he graduated from the University of Calgary with a law degree in 1983 after attending Pepperdine University in Malibu and UCLA in Los Angeles. During this time in California he worked with entertainment and sports lawyer Ted Steinberg advising clients such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, John Elway, Dan Marino and SCTV Alumni, Eugene Levy. Ritch, a former stuntman, was admitted to practice law in California in 1983 and in Alberta in 1984.

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Ritch left Los Angeles in 1984 to establish his own company, The Sports Corporation (“TSC”), in Edmonton. TSC grew from a single location in the basement of Ritch’s condo back in 1985 to offices in Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. TSC currently represents NHL players such Marian Hossa, Ilya Bryzgalov, Carey Price, Vinnie Prospal, Ryan Getzlaf, Milan Lucic, Mark Giordano, Brent Seabrook and Michal Roszival.

In 2011 Ritch sold a majority interest in TSC to Gerry Johannson. Ritch currently owns a small minority interest and acts as consultant to TSC while continuing to represent his clients including Marian Hossa, Ilya Bryzgalov, Vinnie Prospal, Mark Giordano and Michal Roszival. Primarily, Ritch sold his interest to free up time for him to consult with 4sports & Entertainment AG (‘4sports”) as Managing Director of North America and the NHLPA. In this role at 4sports, Ritch handles the negotiations with NHL teams for all of the company’s clients working with Claude Lemieux and consults with 4sports on the management of its golf interests in North America. 4sports hockey clients currently include Cody Hodgson, Eric Nystrom, Erik Gustafsson, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Prust, Anders Nilsson and Frederik Andersen. The company’s golf clients include Peter Hanson, Eduardo Molinari and Paul Lawrie.

In 1989, Ritch spearheaded the player revolt that led to then NHLPA Executive Director Alan Eagleson’s conviction on fraud and racketeering charges. Ritch’s efforts led to the publication of NHL salaries causing them to rise dramatically and quickly. These activities quickly established Ritch as one of the game’s most respected business leaders. Chicago’s Rinkside Magazine referred to him as the game’s “first player-agent superstar”.

Ritch has been actively engaged in helping active and retired NHL players throughout his career. In 1990, Carl Brewer, Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull contacted Ritch to help them recover pension monies the NHL had withdrawn from the players’ pension fund. Ritch led the group winning a $50 million judgment for the players.

When the NHLPA leadership took to reading player emails and breaching their fiduciary duties to NHLPA members a few years ago, Chris Chelios asked Ritch to ensure control of the NHLPA was returned to the players who should control it. With Ritch’s guidance and direction, Chris was able to have Ted Saskin removed, a new constitution put in place and a new leader installed to lead the NHLPA.

Recently, after the NHLPA Advisory Board ousted Paul Kelly; Nik Lidstrom, Sidney Crosby, Chris Chelios, Rob Blake, Mark Recchi and Robyn Regehr sought advice and guidance from Ritch Winter to right the wrong and bring in former Major League Baseball Players’ Association Executive Director, Don Fehr on Ritch’s recommendation to assist with a re-organization of the NHLPA.

Ritch is married to Cindy and has five children; Joel, Tessa, Britlyn, Alana, and Alexa. He is the founding President of the Variety Club of Northern Alberta, an organization dedicated to helping handicapped kids. He is also an active member of his church serving in various capacities.

With numerous bestselling books, including “The Defense Never Rests” and “Money Players” by Bruce Dowbiggin, “Misconduct” by Russ Conway, “Net Worth” by Alison Griffiths and David Cruise, “Glory Barons” by Douglas Hunter and “The Power of Two” by Susan Foster describing his exploits and accomplishments, he is the most written and read about agent in the history of Canadian sport.


Herb Pinder
Herb Pinder, LLB, MBA
The Goal Group

Herb Pinder is the President of Goal Group, a private equity management firm located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Previously he managed a family business as President of Pinder Drugs. Mr. Pinder has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan, a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Manitoba and Masters in Business Administration degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Business.

Mr. Pinder is currently a director for a number of private energy companies and a Trustee with the Fraser Institute.


Jim Bagshaw
Jim Bagshaw
(Retired) Vice-President, Advertising, Sponsorship and Marketing
Calgary Flames

Jim joined the Calgary Flames organization in 2001 as a Vice President of Marketing, Advertising and Sponsorship. Responsibilities include; sponsorship, marketing, broadcast, game presentation, publications and digital platforms.

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Since joining the Flames, the organization has added the Calgary Hitmen, Calgary Roughnecks and Calgary Stampeders.

Now known as Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. Jim’s responsibilities include a number of executive areas in all 4 teams.

Jim began his television career in 1974, with the then start up independent TV station I.T.V. owned by Allarco. Began in retail sales, selling commercial time on the TV station. During his career moved through junior management, mid management, senior executive levels, and finally 11 years as President and CEO in Calgary and Alberta for what was then called W.I.C.. In all a 26 year career. During that time served on various industries related boards, such as the W.A.B, C.A.B, and B.B.M.  Jim was awarded “Broadcaster of the Year” by W.A.B. in 1989.

Craig Button
Craig Button
Hockey Analyst

Craig began his NHL management career in 1988 with the Minnesota North Stars. He was the Director of Scouting for Dallas Stars 1992–98, Director of Player Personnel for Dallas Stars 1998–2000. During this time, Craig worked for hockey legends, Bob Clarke and Bob Gainey. While with the Stars, the teams participated in two Stanley Cup Finals and were recipients of the Presidents Trophy on two occasions. The list of players drafted during his tenure include Derian Hatcher, Jere Lehtinen, Jamie Langenbrunner, Marty Turco, Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow.

A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Craig is currently an analyst on NHL on the Fly on the NHL Network. He also writes hockey articles for ESPN and NHL.com and frequently reports as an NHL “insider” on TSN.

Neil Fassina, PhD, CPHR, ICD.D
Athabasca University

Dr. Fassina holds a PhD in Management from the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto, a BSc in Psychology from the University of Calgary and is a certified human resources professional (CHRP) and a chartered director through the Institute of Chartered Directors.

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As a post-secondary educator, Dr. Fassina has developed courses in effective negotiation strategies, strategic thinking and planning, leadership, conflict management and communications, among other human resource related topics to learners in undergraduate and graduate forums. Complementing his university teaching, Dr. Fassina has delivered continuing, professional, and executive learning sessions in similar topic areas for private, public, and not-for-profit organizations.

As an active researcher, Dr. Fassina’s focus areas address questions related to applied decision-making, including negotiations and strategic thinking, as well as social exchange relationships. Dr. Fassina is currently a lead researcher on a grant funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Stemming from his passion for teaching, Dr. Fassina is a contributing author on a leading undergraduate human resources textbook in Canada.

Throughout his academic career, Dr. Fassina has strived to maintain strong connections to the communities he serves. In his capacity as a post-secondary administrator, he has and continues to serve on boards of directors in both the non-profit and private sectors.

Craig MacTavish
Craig MacTavish, MBA
Senior Vice President, Hockey Operations
Edmonton Oilers

Craig MacTavish enters his first full season as an NHL General Manager, being named the club’s new General Manager on April 15, 2013, after serving Senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations in 2012-13. He will work closely with President, Kevin Lowe, Senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations, Scott Howson and Assistant General Manager, Ricky Olczyk on the daily management operations of the Edmonton Oilers.

Read more about Craig MacTavish:

MacTavish was the Head Coach of the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League in 2011-12, prior to joining the Edmonton Oilers, leading the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate to a 42-27-7 record, third best in the conference.

Named the eighth coach in Oilers history on June 22, 2000, MacTavish compiled a career record of 301-252-103 (.537) in 656 regular season games over the course of eight seasons (2000-01 to 2008-09).

MacTavish became the 36th coach in NHL history to win 300-or-more games with a 5-3 win vs. the Vancouver Canucks on April 4th at Rexall Place.

He completed his coaching tenure behind the Oilers bench after the 2008-09 season, ranking second among Edmonton coaches in games coached, wins, losses, ties/overtime losses and winning percentage and ranked 36th all-time in NHL history in wins and 41st in games coached.

The former Oilers’ captain has a 17-13 (.567) record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and became the third coach to lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final.

In 2005-06 MacTavish guided the Oilers to their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1990, as Edmonton fell in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. After finishing the regular season in 8th place in the NHL’s Western Conference standings with a 41-28-13 record, MacTavish led the Oilers to within a game of their sixth Stanley Cup. In the post-season the Oilers went 15-9 and defeated the President Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings, the San Jose Sharks and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on their way to winning the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl as Western Conference champions.

After departing the Oilers organization following the 2008-09 season, MacTavish earned a masters degree in business from Queen’s University and spent two years as an analyst for the NHL on TSN.

Nevin Markwart
Nevin Markwart, MBA, CFA
Entrepreneur and Mentor, 
Consulate General of Canada

Nevin was a first round draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 1983 and went on to play nine seasons in the NHL. After retiring from the game, he completed an MBA in finance from Northeastern University and began a career in investment banking and mutual fund management. For three years, Nevin was the Senior VP, Head of Canadian Equities for Fidelity Investments. Following this, he helped build Canoe Financial, one of Canada’s most successful mutual fund companies. Under Nevin’s leadership as President and CEO, Canoe’s mutual fund assets grew from $50 million to $1.3 billion and was recognized as one of Canada’s fastest growing mutual fund companies. When Nevin stepped down from the Board of Directors in early 2015, Canoe Financial had assets under management of an estimated $3 billion.

Nevin brings significant financial experience to the Board of BHI as well as an in depth understanding of how education can shape a career after hockey.

Micheal Mauws
Michael Mauws, PhD, ICD.D
Executive Director

Business of Hockey Institute

Michael completed his undergraduate degree in Finance at the University of Manitoba in 1988. He did his graduate work at the University of Alberta, receiving a PhD in Organizational Analysis in 1997. He has been at Athabasca University (AU) since 2004 and currently teaches the Advanced Strategic Management course to AU’s MBA students. He chairs the Centre for Organizational Analysis and serves on the university’s Board of Governors. He has previously held appointments at University of Alberta, University of Manitoba, and McGill University.

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Michael’s current research focus is the practice of strategic management, particularly in the context of entrepreneurial ventures. Much of his research is firmly anchored in the literature of poststructuralism and, more specifically, discursive perspectives on social reality. The journals in which his research has appeared include Sloan Management Review, Organization Science, Journal of Business Venturing, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Journal of Applied Behavioural Studies, and Journal of Management Studies.

He is an ad hoc reviewer for a wide range of journals and conferences and previously served on the editorial board of Sport Management Journal.

Michael enjoyed playing hockey in his youth but realized at an early age that his skills and stature were better suited to other sports. Nevertheless, he continued to be interested in the game and, in particular, the business of hockey. He has recently returned to the rink and, as manager of his son’s Timbits team, feels he has finally found the hockey role he was meant to play.

Norm O’Reilly
Norm O’Reilly, PhD, MBA, CPA
Fox Professor of Management & Chair, Department of Sports Administration
Ohio University

Norm O’Reilly is an accomplished scholar and active business professional. He is adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Health Sciences, specializing in sport business. He teaches courses in both English and French related to sport management, sport finance, and sport marketing. Prof. O’Reilly is also a minority owner and Senior Advisor with TrojanOne, a Toronto-headquartered marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. As an advisor, he is involved with the consulting arm of TrojanOne, working on client-facing projects such as sponsorship audits, evaluations, and revenue generation modeling. Previous clients have included the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Athletics Alberta, Carleton University, City of Calgary, and Speed Skating Canada.

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Since first teaching at the university level in 2000, Norm has taught more than 4,000 students. Prior to coming to the University of Ottawa, he taught at the David Falk Center for Sport Management at Syracuse University, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, the School of Sports Administration at Laurentian University, and the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.

A former School Director and Director of a Research Centre (the Institute for Sport Marketing) at Laurentian, Norm is an active researcher and he has published 3 books, over 50 articles in refereed management journals and more than 100 conference proceedings and case studies in the areas of sport management, tourism marketing, marketing, risk management, sport finance, and social marketing. His research has been funded on two occasions by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). At conferences, he has won 8 Best Paper awards. He is the lead researcher on the Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study, a highlight of the annual Canadian Sponsorship Forum since 2007, currently in its 5th edition.

Norm has considerable experience as a volunteer Board Member and Executive Board Member of multiple organizations (including the Canadian Olympic Committee, Diving Canada and Triathlon Canada), employee, and consultant. He has further been active with a number of charities, including the Ad Astra group who fund-raised over $150,000 to build a school for kids at a Nepalese orphanage and the Garnier FindingLife Africa 2011 Expedition which provided the opportunity for 6 Canadian High School students and 3 Canadian University students to collaborate, in Africa, with Kenya students on the building of classrooms in schools, a safari and a summit attempt of Mount Kenya.

He is the North American Editor of the Journal of Sponsorship and is the principal investigator on a Government of Canada grant on urban youth sport participation. He is also a co-investigator on a second Government grant related to sponsorship, country images and mega-events. Dr. O’Reilly sits on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Sport Finance, the International Journal of Sport Communications, and is a Regional Editor for the Sport, Business, and Management Journal. He has also been involved with a number of major research projects including projects with Gatorade and ParticipACTION.

Prior to joining academia, Norm had involvement as an administrator, including Senior Policy Officer at Sport Canada, Team Manager & Office Manager at Triathlon Canada, and Event Manager for the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid. He has been a member of the 2004, 2008 and 2010 Mission Staff for the Canadian Olympic Committee at the Olympic Games.

Norm is an active athlete, who still competes in triathlons, long-distance runs, cross-country skiing events and ice hockey leagues/tournaments. He is former captain of the University of the Ottawa Gee Gee’s swim team (1999-2000) and a member of the University of Waterloo OUA champion Nordic ski team in 1996. He has completed 6 Ironman triathlons and represented Canada at 5 long distance World Triathlon Championships in his age-group, finishing as high as 17th in 1997. He has taken up mountain climbing, where he recently climbed to the summit of Mount Aconcagua, at 7,000m the highest mountain in North and South America, and Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest point.

Brad Robins
The Robins Partnership

Brad Robins has founded a leading-edge advertising company, been Vice-Chairman Canada and Head of International New Ventures for one of the worlds largest marketing and communications entities, created and launched a National Sales office on behalf of Facebook Canada and has been Chief Marketing Office for the Hospital of Sick Children and travelled the globe as a venture The Robins Partnership to find, develop and bring together the best of the best.

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Out of this experience come the success markers of The Robins Partnership: from launching the Apple and Absolut Vodka brands in Canada to putting Martin Brodeur and other athletes together with the right companies, products and charities, The Robins Partnership has proven itself as the country’s most innovative and diversified idea company propelling brands towards their business objectives.

Through our strengths in communications, sports, retail and philanthropy and in partnership with our clients, The Robins Partnership has developed leading-edge new media and social networking programs, sponsorship, naming and licensing deals, and breakthrough branding initiatives both in traditional and non-traditional media.

From conceptual brainstorming to production and execution, The Robins Partnership brings together best of breed thinkers, communicators, and content creators to work with world-renowned companies and brands such as Thomson Reuters, Rick Nash, Alexander Ovechkin, The Art Gallery of Ontario and Frank Gehry, The Hospital for Sick Children and HBC.

Ron Robinson
Ron Robison, BSPE
Western Hockey League

Ron Robison has been the Western Hockey League’s commissioner for the past fourteen years.  Prior to joining the WHL organization Robison worked for twelve years for Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey Association in a number of capacities.  Robison began his career as an assistant coach with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey team and member of the Physical Education Faculty.

Scott Smith
Scott Smith, BEd
Chief Operating Officer
Hockey Canada

Scott Smith joined Hockey Canada in 1997 as the director, operations and subsequently became the senior vice president of business operations and then moved to the senior executive vice president position.

Before joining Hockey Canada, Smith was the executive director of the New Brunswick Amateur Hockey Association and an assistant coach with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.

Fred Steer
Fred Steer, CA
Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
Montreal Canadiens

The 2013-14 season marks Fred Steer’s 32nd year with the Montreal Canadiens organization. As Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, he is responsible for all financial matters as well as human resources for the Club de Hockey Canadien Inc. and the Bell Centre. He joined the organization in 1982 as Vice President Finance and serves as an Alternate Governor of the National Hockey League and a Director of the NHL Pension Society. Fred is a native Montrealer who attended McGill University, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree and received his designation as a Chartered Accountant in 1974.

Brian Yaworski
Brian Yaworski, QC, ICD.D

Brian Yaworski is a partner at DLA Piper LLP, in the firms Calgary office. Brian is also an economist by training. His practice of law spans energy and infrastructure (including northern development, bitumen and coalbed methane recovery and coal), banking and financial services, aboriginal consultation, corporate and commercial law.

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He has served as a member of and counsel to the Calgary Committee to Canada’s Olympic and National Hockey Teams, is a past director and officer of Flames Project 75 Hockey Association, renamed the Seamans Hotchkiss Foundation (a non-profit charitable organization formed by the Calgary Flames Hockey Club) and has acted as counsel and adviser to a number of sporting groups, including Hockey Canada, the Calgary Flames Hockey Club, the Western Hockey League, the Calgary Raiders Lacrosse Club and the Business of Hockey Institute and to athletes, coaches and administrators in hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

He has acted and continues to act as counsel and business adviser in a wide variety of matters for corporate, multinational, institutional, individual, aboriginal, government and private sector clients, as well as for clients in public and private business dealings, both domestic and international.