World’s First Online Hockey MBA Comes to Athabasca University


Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University in Alberta, has launched the first of its kind Hockey executive MBA program, an online postgraduate course that combines business with Canada’s favorite sport and aims to prepare graduates for a career in professional hockey.

“For the first time in hockey’s history, a program is in place to develop the leaders in the boardroom as effectively as those on the ice”, the University announced in a press release.

Among those involved in the creation of the unique MBA program is NHL player agent Ritch Winter and Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke. Ron Robison, the Western Hockey League commissioner who co-designed the MBA program with Athabasca University, said:

“This is the first of its kind in the world from a hockey perspective. The industry has changed dramatically in recent years and will continue to change in the future and the requirements for organizations are to look for people with very specialized skills.”

Hockey is now more complex business-wise and it necessitates skilled, knowledgeable individuals acting as executives in key positions, Robison says. The program is suitable for former hockey players and those who have never played. Robison comments:

“Certainly those who are in the game have an advantage of having that network.… We hope [the program] will be appealing to those players, but it will open the door to others as well.”

The online MBA program, which takes two and a half years to complete, will welcome its first cohort of students in May 2015.

The executive MBA program was the idea of Ritch Winter, a professional player agent who aims for the program to bring great minds and skilled individuals into the business of hockey. Winter says:

“We want people – not just sports people – who are innovators. We have to create opportunities to attract the best people outside the game because we need them. Maybe it’s a tech guy from Silicon Valley or a financial guy from Wall Street. We’re looking for hockey’s Steve Jobs.”

During the two and a half year MBA course, students will first be taught foundational courses in finance, leadership and accounting. In the second year of postgraduate studies, the students will move onto more hockey-specific courses such as: Managerial Ethics and Decision-making, Integrated Marketing Communications for Hockey, Managing Franchises Strategically and Game Day Management and Marketing among other courses.

The online Hockey MBA costs $79,365 and those with hockey management experience will receive Professional Hockey Manager status, Allan Maki of the Globe and Mail writes. He adds about the program: “It’s not for everyone, but that’s the point. Only the best-suited, highly motivated need apply.”