Canada’s National Park

Photograph by Winston Chow

[N]ext time you enter the Mattamy Athletic Centre, reflect for a moment on the fact that you are technically walking into a national park – yes, Rams athletes are (so far as I know) the only teams in Canada to ply their trades in a national park.

Ryerson’s President, Sheldon Levy, spoke briefly about this quirk of clerical judgment after the lunch break at the inaugural Ted Rogers School of Management Sports Conference.

When filling out the forms to designate the Gardens as a national historic site, someone mistakenly checked the national park box, and that gave Ryerson the opportunity it desperately needed to secure twenty million dollars in stimulus funds from the federal government, because, as Levy noted, “Ryerson is the only university which owns a national park,” so nobody could ask for their own stimulus on the grounds that Ryerson received some.

It certainly felt natural standing on the fourth floor of the wonderfully expansive Gardens, watching the zamboni rhythmically scraping and resurfacing an already pristine ice pad, at 7:30 on a drizzly morning. The Alumni Lounge served up the shining Mattamy Home Ice as the picture perfect backdrop for talking the business of sports, with five different seminars spread over a full day and into the evening.

Part schmooze-fest, part teaching seminar, the networking event was organized by the Ryerson Sports and Business Association (RSBA), which hosted its own premiere last year. In his opening remarks, RSBA founder and president, Vedran Kuljanin, spoke about the importance of developing a partnership between Ryerson athletics and the school of management. “What we learned [last year] was what we believed all along – that Ryerson and the Toronto community deserved a sports conference we could call our own.”

Dr. Ken Jones, Dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management came to distinguished visiting professors David Dingwall and Ralph Lean with the idea for such a sports conference. From the outset, Jones says he made sure that the RSBA would be involved in the endeavor.
While the opening seminars were interesting, it was the third one on the day which drew my attention most.

In a moment of hopeful coincidence, it was to the sounds of pucks ringing the iron, and sticks smacking the ice that Dave Andrews, president and CEO of the now locked-out NHL’s little brother, the American Hockey League, spoke from the panel. Of course, the lockout will provide a short-term boon for the AHL, as fans will turn to the next best thing to satisfy their hockey cravings. Yet Andrews stressed – perhaps not least of the reasons being the majority of the room were on the player’s sides – he did not want to see a lockout, but that the AHL was fully prepared for one, saying “I am a marriage counselor for 30 AHL owners and their NHL counterparts.”

In a moment of not-so-coincidental pairing, Andrews was joined on the panel by Rand Simon, an agent from Newport Sports Management, who represents NHL players, some of whom will inevitably end up in Andrews’ AHL because of the lockout.

The two engaged in a spirited but blandly amicable discussion despite the potential differences between the men.
All told the five seminars represented a broad spectrum of the sports and business worlds colliding – and as the panel on getting more women into the top levels of sports management explained – it has not been an equal opportunity ride.

Nonetheless, Friday’s conference provided the best opportunity for many of Ryerson’s business students to shove a collective foot in the proverbial door that is the world of sports management, and they got to do it at a national park. Quite the picnic.