Athabasca University is offering students a unique way to combine a passion for hockey with an education in business.

The new hockey executive MBA program is aimed at preparing students for a career in the business of professional hockey.

“This is the first of its kind in the world from a hockey perspective,” said Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison, who helped the university design the program.

“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."

Robison said the business of hockey is more sophisticated than it once was, with more complex revenue-generating models and specialized sales and marketing techniques.

“Overall it’s evolving in a direction which requires a much more highly skilled type of executive in the organization,” Robison said.

Applications accepted in February

NHL player-agent Ritch Winter and Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke also helped spearhead the program’s creation.

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Brian Burke, Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations, helped establish Athabasca University's new hockey executive MBA program. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

The courses will be equally well-suited to former professional players as to people who have never played the game, Robison said.

“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,” he said.  

“I think we’re looking for both. We’re looking for those in the business sector who wish to pursue a hockey career and I think it’s also open to those who have been in the game who look … at an opportunity to work on the business side of hockey.”

Athabasca University will take applications for the program starting Feb. 1 until March 15. The first classes will begin in May. The degree will take two-and-a-half to three years to complete.