2012Oct 18

(Award Winning) Alumni Profile: Mike Lappan

By SPAD Blogger Benoit Roy

On behalf of the School of Sports Administration I’d like to congratulate Mike Lappan (SPAD’05) on winning the AHL’s Ken McKenzie Award this year for being recognized as the executive who most successfully promotes his own club…congratulations!  Mike was kind enough to share his experiences with SPAD and how it led to a career as an executive in professional hockey.

Q:  This award is given to an executive because they have implemented strategies that have helped build their respective franchise.  Tell us about the strategies that you implemented in the past year or so that led to you winning this award?  SPAD students are always looking for creative inspiration.

A:  We took a grassroots approach this season and got our players in as many schools and as many appearances as possible.  Then we utilized social media and our website to tell the stories.  It worked very well.  In a city that is dominated by NFL, NASCAR and sometimes NBA, community relations are what can get you noticed.

Q:  What is the greatest benefit that you derived from winning this award? 

A:  The satisfaction of being acknowledged for what we worked so hard on all season.

Q:  Have you always considered a career in public and media relationships, one where you are in constant contact with your consumers and the public, or did you consider going another route upon graduation?

A:  I always wanted to be in PR.  My focus was on the NHL but once I got to Charlotte and saw that the Checkers are basically a major league set up with a great owner and COO, and play in an NBA arena, I wanted to stay.  I was actually originally a math major at the University of Waterloo, but transferred to LU a year later.

Q:  What is the greatest career challenge that you’ve faced?  Have there been any particular instances where you’ve had to make an interesting public relations announcement in light of players or personnel acting against the best interests of the Checkers?

A:  Not really.  We have a good group of players.  Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with anything like that in my career.  The greatest challenge is finding ways to stay relevant in a city like Charlotte.  NFL, NBA, NASCAR, NCAA, MLL, AAA baseball, etc.

Q:  How has SPAD helped you as a business professional in the sport industry?  Are there any specific moments from your time in SPAD that really made you think, “A career in the sport business is right for me”?

A:  The internship program helped me greatly.  That’s where I got my start.  I was hired from my internship (San Diego Gulls) and that team president hired me here in Charlotte.

Q:  In SPAD, we try to create a sense of association between our students that cannot be matched by any other program at Laurentian University, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that.  Are there any SPAD Alumni that you are still in contact with and do you speak to them more on a professional or social basis?

A:  I speak to a lot of the hockey guys: Ryan Belec (Tampa), Jordan Silmser (Ottawa), Craig Downey (Toronto) both professionally and socially.  And I try to hire a SPAD intern every season.  Right now we have Jordan Sims, who’s doing a great job.

Q:  After quickly browsing your LinkedIn profile, I can tell that you have an interest in working in professional hockey.  Tell us about organizations you’ve worked for in the past and any significant business contributions you made to those organizations.

A:  I worked as an intern for the San Diego Gulls (ECHL) and the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) and full-time for the Gulls, ECHL head office and now with the Charlotte Checkers.  With the Gulls, I was in sales and marketing, then with the ECHL I moved over to hockey operations and I’m now back in PR, where I started as an intern.

Q:  I did some digging and noticed that you not only worked for the San Diego Gulls of the ECHL during the 2006-07 season, but you suited up for them as well.  What’s the story behind that and what was your experience like as a “professional” hockey player?

A:  We had injuries and call-ups and needed an extra body so I signed a two-day contract and suited up for a game.  I flew out to Salt Lake City the next day and we played the Utah Grizzlies.  It was pretty interesting and we got some good publicity from it.

Q:  Finally, having worked in the AHL and the ECHL, you have created a path for yourself that many current SPAD students are hoping to follow.  What professional advice would you offer a recent graduate or a current SPAD student on achieving their career goals and what characteristics of a good business professional would you say future employers are looking for the most?

A:  Now more than ever, there is an incredible amount of competition.  Thousands of people want your job.  So I’d say the best advice is to be a self-starter.  When you’re done working on whatever task you’re assigned, find something else and find ways to make things better.

Thanks Mike for sharing your experiences.  Again, congratulations on winning this significant award and we hope that you have another great season this year in Charlotte.

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