Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Education Pivotal in Markwart's Transition from Hockey to Business

As a youngster playing for the Regina Pat Canadians, former Pats forward and Boston Bruins first round pick, Nevin Markwart, didn’t have many designs on playing in the NHL.  His eyes were set on playing for the Regina Pats whom, when he first moved to the Queen City from Sault Ste. Marie in 1973, left him hoping some day he could be a good enough player to don the Blue and White.

“We had little black and white TV’s at home.  We didn’t have big screen HD TV’s that showed 14 hockey games every night,” Markwart explained.  “There was one game, it was on Saturday night, called Hockey Night in Canada and for us, most of those games were Montreal Canadians games.  So all you see on this little black and white screen are these hockey players and they almost rise to the level of Gods.  So the idea you could ever play in the NHL was just zippo.  You had no aspiration for that at all.  I had never met an NHL player so I didn’t even know you could touch those guys.”

Markwart realized his aspiration of playing for the Pats midway through the 1981-82 season when he got called up from the Regina Pat Blues of the SJHL.  After that shortened season, he found himself ranked in the first round of the next season’s NHL Draft.  The next WHL season was his coming out party when Markwart scored 27 goals and added 39 assists in just 43 games before a shoulder injury ended his season.  

Despite the shortened season, Markwart got a call from the Bruins who told him two things.  If he was available in the draft, they would select him 21st Overall and he would play in the NHL the next season.  The Bruins did just that in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft and Markwart played 70 games, posting 30 points and 121 penalty minutes in his rookie season.

The scrappy forward went on to play 309 games in the NHL, picking up 109 points along the way to go with 794 penalty minutes.  After nine seasons in the NHL, though, Markwart’s career came to an end due in part to chronic shoulder injuries. 

The transition to life after hockey is not an easy one and there are many stories to illustrate the point.  Markwart’s switch came a little easier as he jumped right into the business world.  Markwart knew a professor at Northeastern University in Boston and inquired about their MBA program.  Two days of reading later, Makrwart wrote the entrance exam and scored high, but still had to get past the admissions committee.

“At first the admissions committee wasn’t real excited about an ex-hockey player who didn’t have an undergrad… that wasn’t really their profile of their optimal student,” chuckled Markwart.  “Professor Malloy worked his magic and I got into the program.  Two years later I graduated with my MBA in Finance, graduated number four in my class and went into the investment industry.”

For Nevin the transition was quick, eight to nine weeks from player to student, with very little time stuck in limbo and struggling to find what to do next.  Something he feels was key to successfully moving on.

“I went from finished being playing, to being in the classroom.  I think a lot of my contemporaries have had difficulty with that, the transition period elongates for them and other demons show up.  Therefore, it can be problematic.  I was lucky to have my NHL career, and I was very lucky that Jim Malloy was a strong advocate for me.”

As a result of his experiences, Markwart is a strong advocate for making education a key part of the junior hockey experience and supports the WHL in its efforts to provide education to its players through the WHL Scholarship Program.

“I think it’s important, the concept the league has gone to in a formalized program to make sure they can help out players when they’re done playing towards aspirations in education.  I think it’s terrific, I say more….  How do we figure out how to get more of that in place?”

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Schlenker Earning His Stripes

Near the Pats’ dressing room in the lower level of the Brandt Centre, you’ll find a wall listing all the players to captain the Blue and White over the years.  As is the case with junior hockey, most names are only listed once while a select few are listed for multiple years.  One of the latter is former Pats defenceman Chris Schlenker.  The Medicine Hat, AB native captained the Pats from 2002-2004 when he was moved to the Prince Albert Raiders late in the season.

After his Major Junior playing time was over, Schlenker played briefly in Europe before returning to Canada and skating onto a new path as an official.  Schlenker now embarks on his first full season as a WHL referee, which is impressive considering the 29-year old is only in his third season of officiating games.  It was a drive to be involved in a high level of hockey that brought the former WHL’er to officiating.

“Some guys I work with pressured me after playing some senior hockey and I thought I would definitely enjoy it.  It’s a way to stay in competitive hockey rather than rec league which, sometimes, isn’t as competitive.”

On September 14th, Schlenker was partnered with fellow referee Nathan Wieler to officiate the Pats’ final pre-season game of 2013.  It was his first game wearing the stripes for a Pats contest.

“I was probably just as nervous for (the game) as I was for my first one back in 2001, but the friendly game day staff and the friendly people around here make things a lot easier.”

For the most part, we think of the fans of teams occupying the stands and maybe families of the players in their hometown, but sometimes the officials have fans in the crowd too.  Schlenker’s family travelled to Regina from Medicine Hat to see him on the ice at the Brandt Centre.

“My wife and three kids made the trek and they were pretty excited as they only get to watch the Tigers games at home so they get to see some different games and they’re probably bigger hockey fans than I am so it’s pretty exciting.  My seven-year old found a referee jersey with my name on it so he was pretty excited for today’s game and it was pretty neat for me too.”

Now wearing the black and white, Schlenker finds a new appreciation for what it takes to be making the calls that have so much impact on the game.

“Lots of apologies for me… who knew referees were human as well?  It has given me a whole different side and it has definitely been for the better.  I’ve learned all sorts of things, this side of the ice is not easy whatsoever and there’s still lots of learning to do.”