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Volume 22 No. 31
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Berman named new NLL deputy commissioner

Longtime NHL executive is the first woman at a men’s league to hold that role, a newly created spot and a sign of league’s growth.

The National Lacrosse League has hired longtime NHL executive Jessica Berman as deputy commissioner, making her the first woman to hold that title for a professional men’s sports league in North America.

 

Jessica Berman, who will also oversee legal affairs, called the opportunity “the roll-up of my entire career.”
Photo: Courtesy of National Lacrosse League

The league will announce the hire this week and is creating the position to help Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz’s increasing workload that is the result of expansion, among other initiatives. COO Dave Rowan left the league recently, leaving a void. 

The NLL handled the search in-house. Sakiewicz said he whittled the list of candidates down to four finalists before selecting Berman.

“We’re heading into a different era. We’re going to be 13 teams next year, we’re growing our business with our media partner in BR Live/Turner, we’re expanding our business in Canada and now will have a fifth team there — the league is now ready for a deputy commissioner,” said Sakiewicz, who expressed pride that the NLL is the first to hire a woman as deputy commissioner.

The NLL is based in Philadelphia but also has an office in New York City, where Berman will remain based. 

Berman, who starts Sept. 5, served in a variety of roles during her 13-plus years with the NHL, originally as senior counsel and most recently as vice president of community development, culture and growth. A 2014 SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree, Berman started her career with Proskauer.

In addition to being deputy commissioner, Berman will oversee legal affairs, including the league’s relationship with the Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association. Berman helped the NHL and NHLPA strike a 10-year collective-bargaining agreement in 2013.

The sport’s growth and its similarities to hockey attracted Berman to the position. The job also encompasses two areas from her background — legal and corporate social responsibility — in addition to identifying the next generation of fans. 

“One of the things that was really enticing and frankly unique about this opportunity is it’s the roll-up of my entire career,” she said. “I’m excited to combine those two areas into what I’m going to be focused on … and I feel I’m at the point in my career where I’m excited to learn, grow and be working side by side with a great leader like Nick.”

In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stressed Berman’s importance as a member of the NHL’s executive team.

“Jessica Berman has been an invaluable member of the NHL team for more than 13 years,” Bettman said. “As a colleague it is easy to recognize that she is whip-smart, enthusiastic and collaborative, and we wish her all the best as she takes on this new role.”