TALKING HOCKEY WITH THE NEW CHAIRMAN OF THE CANADIAN JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
He’s a former Alberta Junior Hockey League scoring champion. He’s a former professional hockey player. He’s a graduate of Princeton University. He’s a Calgary tax lawyer. And now Kirk Lamb is the chairman of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, charged with overseeing the ever-growing Junior A game across Canada.
As he prepares for his first national championship as CJHL chair, Hockey Canada Nation sits down with Lamb to talk about how far the game has come, and where it’s going.
HCN: What attracted you to the position of CJHL chairman?
KL: I've been involved in junior A hockey – as a player and in league administration – for over 15 years and I continue to have a real passion for it. I see a great deal of unexplored opportunities and potential for junior hockey and the CJHL, so the opportunity to continue my involvement in such a different and exciting way is very appealing.
HCN: How has Junior A hockey changed since you were a player?
KL: Junior players today are stronger and faster and play the game at such a high skill level. A large part of that has to do with access to enhanced training and coaching, but probably a bigger reason is that players today are much more focused on, and engaged in, their development and progressing to the next level than they were when I played.
HCN: What can you take from your days as a Junior A player that can help you in the position of chairman?
KL: I was fortunate to not only have played in the CJHL, but also in the CHL, NCAA and semi-pro. I understand the demands, both on and off the ice, that are put on players at each of these levels and I understand the athletic and academic decisions that these players and their families will face as they move from minor hockey to Junior A and then to college, major junior or professional hockey. I just hope that I am able to offer a unique perspective on the prospects and challenges facing players and Junior A leagues.
HCN: How did playing Junior A hockey help you develop both as a player and a person?
KL: It was during my Junior A career when I really began to focus on my development as a player and where I became aware of a variety of different athletic and academic opportunities. By the end of my Junior A career I was fortunate to have a number different hockey and academic options and was confident that I, and my parents, had the necessary information to make an educated decision. As far as personal development, playing junior hockey is really is about commitment and time management in the sense that to develop as a hockey player and a person requires commitment to yourself and your teammates all the while making sure that you are not sacrificing important aspects off the ice, such as academics.
HCN: What are the biggest issues facing Junior A hockey in Canada?
KL: Being able to differentiate and distinguish ourselves on and off the ice. On the ice, we compete with a number of other leagues and levels for the best hockey players. Therefore, we have to continue to offer a premier development platform and exposure to the next level, all while ensuring that our players and their families are equipped to make educated decisions about their athletic and academic opportunities. Off the ice, we compete with those same leagues for fans, sponsors, media space, etc., so we have to present unquestioned value for all of our fans, partners and stakeholders. It’s really a continuous cycle for us – recruit and retain top players so that we offer a high-skill, entertaining product on the ice. An exciting product draws the attention of fans and media. This increased attention offers a more value opportunity to potential partners. All this helps with recruiting and retaining players.
HCN: What are the biggest strengths of Junior A hockey in Canada?
KL: In the simplest terms – development, exposure and opportunity. Developing quality hockey players and people, offering those players a platform to showcase their talent and, finally, making sure that those players and their families are prepared to make informed decisions about the academic and athletic opportunities presented to them.
HCN: Where do you see Junior A hockey going in the future?
KL: I see us continuing to do, and perfect, a lot of what we have been doing for many years – developing quality players, providing the type of exposure that allows our players to move on to the next level and preparing them to make informed decisions about their academic and athletic opportunities. I see us initiating or strengthening relationships with key partners of Junior A hockey and the CJHL. Finally, I see the CJHL and its members playing a more active and prominent role in the governance and growth of Junior A hockey.
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