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For retired NHL players, QU provides ‘Life After Hockey’
Imagine being 40 years old, without a college degree and being forced to quit your dream job. This is a reality for most professional hockey players, but fortunately there is the Life After Hockey.
Lisa Burns, assistant professor of media studies at Quinnipiac University, is proud of her involvement with the program, which is co-sponsored by the National Hockey League, the National Hockey League Association and the National Hockey League Player’s Association.
The goal of Life After Hockey is to help retired players make the transition to life after their hockey career. The rule for enrollment into the program is that the player must have played in at least one NHL game.
One may ask how the NHL is able to pay for this. Burns said that the money comes from the fines the players pay when they get a penalty.
Life After Hockey holds Finishing College Education workshops in both business and communications.
While sitting with one leg underneath the other and gesturing with her hands, Burns says, “A lot of guys, especially who have played the game, think they can sit at home and talk hockey, but it is not as easy as it looks, so that is what we try to get across in workshops.”
She conducts sports broadcasting and public speaking workshops that are held at Quinnipiac and throughout the United States. Burns was thrilled when she was asked to hold these workshops because hockey is her favorite sport.
Each summer, 8 to 10 former players, come to Quinnipiac to live in the dorms for a week and receive a “crash course in broadcasting,” as Burns calls it.
The players work hard from 8:30 in the morning until 6 at night. They put their projects on hold for an hour to eat dinner and then go back to work until 11 p.m.
To give the former players a “real” university experience, Burns takes them out to dinner and to a bar in Hamden once they have completed the workshop. Burns said the men who attend these workshops are like a “small fraternity of people who played the sport and are very supportive of each other.”
Burns said the players grow in their confidence and ability in their broadcasting by the end of the week. Some players take it so seriously that they end up bragging about the “degrees” that they received when the workshop is over.
The players who have attended the workshops include, Glenn Anderson of the New York Rangers, PJ Stock who played for the Boston Bruins, Larry Murphy who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Dave Shultz of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Part of the program is to help the former players with post workshop counseling. Through this, Burns has stayed in close contact with some of the athletes. She said, “These are my students, these are my boys, I want to see them do well.”
Once the workshops are over, the always smiling, bright-eyed Burns continues to meet with them and talk with them on the phone to help them with their resumes and give them the support they need to make the full transition from hockey to life after hockey.
It is obvious to anyone who walks into Burns’ office just how passionate she is about hockey and the relationships she has made through the program. As she sits at her desk surrounded by sports memorabilia, pictures of herself with former players and many different VIP name tags, Burns said, “My only complaint is that they don’t take compliments very well.
“I always tell them that they are smarter than they think.”