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?”

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