2013Jul 30

SPAD Alumni Profile: Kyle Davidson (SPAD’10)

By SPAD Bloggers Benoit Roy and Brianne Pankoff


One of our recent grads played a big part in the recent Stanley Cup victory of the Chicago Blackhawks. All of us in SPAD are very proud of Kyle Davidson (SPAD’10) for his team’s incredible accomplishment and the role he served as Coordinator of Hockey Operations. His rapid rise from student to his current role is a testament to what can happen when somebody gets a good education, builds their network of contacts, and works hard to create and take advantage of opportunities. SPAD students Brianne Pankoff and Benoit Roy (who are also going to be travelling to Chicago next March for the 2014 SPAD Field Trip) talked with Kyle and have included the interview below.


Q:  Congratulations on winning the Stanley Cup!  You have a very unique job in an industry that most SPAD students would love to work in.  How did you ultimately find your job with the Chicago Blackhawks as a Coordinator of Hockey Operations?
A:  It started after graduation with an internship with the AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks, the Rockford IceHogs.  I took a position in the sales department knowing that I would get a chance to work with the Hockey Operations crew in Rockford.  My goal was always to get into Hockey Operations and I thought this would be a good opportunity to build my resume while also getting the experience I was looking for.  Fortunately, an internship in Hockey Operations came up with the Blackhawks (Rockford is about 1.5 hours west of Chicago) and so I made the drive down for an interview and eventually got the job.  After that it was just about working hard and trying to get my nose into whatever Hockey Operations work I could.  After about 6 months in Chicago I was hired as a full-time employee doing video and stats work.  Some internal restructuring occurred after we had two Assistant General Managers (who I worked under) take GM jobs elsewhere (Kevin Cheveldayoff in Winnipeg and Marc Bergevin in Montreal) and I was promoted and given a part of the Assistant GM responsibilities.  The main portion that was handed down to me was managing the salary cap and everything that goes along with that, like determining market value for UFA and RFA players, recalling players from minor leagues and writing player contracts.  Ever since that point I have been continuously familiarizing myself with the CBA and the intricacies of my job.

Q:  In your role within the Blackhawks organization, how did you contribute to this year’s historic Blackhawks season and to the team’s Stanley Cup victory?

A:  My part in the grand scheme of things is basically to give clearance to any transaction like trades, recalls, waivers, and buyouts, as it pertains to our salary cap.  I would have been involved, to some degree, in all of the transactions that have occurred over the last two years.  Some examples of these would be the resigning of Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Michal Roszival, Johnny Oduya and the trades for Johnny Oduya, Michael Frolik, and Michal Handzus.  Pretty much any change or modification that has impacted the Chicago Blackhawks over the last couple years, I have had some part to play in it.  I may not be one of the decision makers, but I am a resource of sorts to those that do make the decisions.

Q:  SportsBusiness Journal recently published an article highlighting the Chicago Blackhawks organization’s “unique” culture of unifying both the business and hockey operations departments – an unheard of practice in the NHL.  You are a perfect example of their inclusive practice as the Coordinator of Hockey Operations with a Sports Administration background.  How do you incorporate your business background in SPAD in your current position?

A:  To be honest, the unique nature of my job is not something you could ever really train for or prepare for in a classroom.  The salary cap and CBA are ever evolving entities and you’re essentially learning on the fly.  However, my SPAD experience has definitely provided me with an appreciation and an understanding of what goes on in the organization, outside of Hockey Operations.  The emphasis in our organization, for someone like myself on the Hockey side of the team, to be involved and educated on the business side has been an easy transition because of the extensive “real-life” situations I was placed in during my time at LU.

Q:  You get to work alongside some of the biggest names in hockey:  Blackhawks General Manager, Stan Bowman, and his father, Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, Scotty Bowman.  What’s the best advice you’ve received from these legendary names in professional hockey?

A:  I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors in my time with the Blackhawks, from whom I have been able to draw wisdom on many different topics.  The one thing that sticks with me, and this is more of something that I’ve learned rather than something anyone has told me, is the importance that reputation holds.  I have a job where questions are asked that require time-sensitive answers and if I don’t have those answers then people will go elsewhere to find them.  You always want to be a “go-to” person and when someone like Scotty Bowman asks you a question, then you have to be ready to give him a quality answer.  In order to do this I’ve tried to stay one step ahead of the decision makers in determining the issues and situations that our team will have to deal with in the future.  Also, confidence is a major part of forming your reputation.  Being a 25 year old in an industry dominated by the 40+ crowd, I’ve had to be assertive and confident in my opinions, otherwise you make it easy for the decision makers to disregard your opinion.

Q:  From your experience, what can current SPAD students do to best prepare themselves to create opportunities like your experience during their time at school, at work, while volunteering, or on internships?

A:  The best advice I could give to current SPAD students is to find a field they love and be as active as you can in that field.  I chose to be involved in hockey so I volunteered with the Sudbury Wolves at every possible home game, team event, and draft all while also acting as the assistant equipment manager for the Jr. Wolves.  Nothing will be glamorous, and you’ll probably hate some of the early jobs that you have to do but it’s necessary in order to build your network of contacts, experience and knowledge.  During core year I was making 4-hour bus trips to Iroquois Falls and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with the Sudbury Junior Wolves as assistant equipment manager.  On these trips my sole purpose was to fill water bottles, set up the stick rack and load the bus.   I would then try to get some studying in on the ride home.  At the time, it probably wasn’t the smartest move of my educational career but the first questions I got from our GM and Assistant GM when I interviewed in Chicago was about my experience with the Jr. Wolves.  As I mentioned before, it’s all about reputation and if you’re seen as someone who is willing to sacrifice in order to gain experience then people take notice.

Q: A lot of our readers are current or prospective SPAD students who are huge hockey fans, so we have to ask… what is the best thing about being a Stanley Cup Champion?  How do NHL celebrations compare to SPAD celebrations, if it’s even possible to compare the two.

A:  The celebration on the ice, in the locker room and on the team charter back to Chicago was among the most surreal experiences of my life.  Being able to lift the Stanley Cup in the locker room with the players and team executives standing around me is something that I will never forget.  I wouldn’t say the party after winning the Cup was rowdy since the celebration spanned two cities, two time zones and about 12 hours… it started out as a sprint but turned into a marathon, so the players and staff paced themselves.  I honestly still haven’t come to terms with the fact that I’m a Stanley Cup Champion.   It seems more like something you see on TV and that you’ll never get to experience yourself.  At this point I feel more like I won some sort of VIP experience with an all access pass to the playoff run.  I’m hoping that the defining moment will be the day that I receive my Stanley Cup ring and we raise the banner in to the rafters at the United Center.  I really hope it does sink in soon because it’s a pretty special thing to be part of at such a young age.


Thanks Kyle for taking the time to talk to us and share your incredible experience with the rest of the SPAD family. On behalf of everybody in SPAD, congratulations on your successes and all the best in what is bound to be an incredible NHL career.


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