SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/Labor and Agents

NHL, union join other sports by rolling out rookie orientation

Liz Mullen
About 90 NHL players were scheduled to take part last week in the first rookie orientation, a program that the players and the league agreed would be conducted annually as part of the new collective-bargaining agreement.

The NFL, MLB and NBA and the respective players unions — the NFL Players Association, the MLB Players Association and the National Basketball Players Association — have long had such programs for incoming rookies. Now they are joined by the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL, who were set to hold their first such seminar last week in Virginia near Washington, D.C.

Players were to partake in three days of training, including media training, and hear presentations on health and safety issues, as well as information on how to manage personal finances and general life skills guidance. The NHL and the NHLPA have jointly funded the program.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who is overseeing the program for the league, said in an email that the new program was something that both the league and the players wanted. “The creation of and support for such a Program was something that was important to both sides,” Daly wrote. “In fact, as I recall it, it may have been one of the first items we agreed to in collective bargaining.”

Before the creation of the program, the NHL and NHLPA gave players preparation for several hours on the day of the NHL draft.

Under the terms of the program, each NHL club may send up to three players to the seminar. Alex Dagg, NHLPA director of operations and who oversees the program for the union, said the clubs get to choose the players who attend. The program is not only for those players drafted in the 2013 NHL draft, but also for players drafted in 2012 and before who are likely to see their first significant NHL action this coming season, she said.

The training for the players will include social media training, as well as how to handle newfound celebrity. “They are about to be coming into a fishbowl where they will be analyzed all the time,” Dagg said.

Additionally, players will receive “sensitivity training” to teach them how to deal with women, openly gay players, and players who come into the NHL from different countries and cultures, she said.

Both Daly and Dagg agreed that the program was good for the players and the league, and both said the two sides worked well together in planning the event.

“This is a really positive initiative that we are working on with the league,” Dagg said.

Daly said the league and the NHLPA have worked cooperatively to put the program together, including selecting consultants and experts to speak. “The subject matters are all important, and if communicated effectively, can be beneficial to the professional and life development of our Players,” Daly wrote.

Daly was scheduled to give the players a presentation on the NHL, including its international business, the league history and league initiatives.

The NHL has communicated and consulted with other leagues, which have been “very helpful” in sharing information and their experience about rookie programs, Daly said.

“I am sure it will not be perfect, and that there will be things we want to change and improve upon as we move forward, but that is the nature of the beast,” he added.

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Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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