A family vacation after the Games changed my life. In June 2014, I met my future wife, Jill, in Nashville. She lived in Chicago, was a U.S. citizen and had a successful career of her own. I had struggled for years with my sexuality; I always feared people would look at me differently, not accept me or even discriminate against me. But when I met Jill, none of that seemed to matter anymore. I decided I wanted to be happy and let go of those insecurities. We had an instant connection and were determined to try to be together. A long-distance relationship is always hard, but we made it work. We overcame everything and quickly got engaged. Then came the next questions … how would our life look and where we would live? We decided I should move to the U.S. I really didn’t want to quit my dream job, but it was the best option for us as partners.
When we started making our plan for me to move to Chicago, I applied for jobs and networked with family and friends. In the end, Kevin Dineen helped make everything happen. Kevin was the head coach of Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics and had taken a position as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks after the Games. I reached out to see if there were any positions available, and three weeks later Kevin got in touch to let me know about a position he thought I would be perfect for. My jaw just about hit the floor; I couldn’t believe my luck (and the value of networking). Kevin helped me connect to the right people and a week later I was interviewing with Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac.
To say I was a bit nervous was an understatement. Not only was I meeting with two prominent hockey executives for a position with an Original Six team, but this could be my shot at working in the NHL. My childhood dream of being a player was long gone, but working in the NHL was a close second! I managed to keep my composure during my day of interviews and landed the position as Stan’s executive assistant. With bittersweet feelings I left behind a great job, great coworkers and Calgary friends, packed up everything I owned (again in my trusty Ford Escape) and drove 25 hours to Chicago for a new start with my fiancée!
I started with the Blackhawks in June 2016, donning my ‘work boots’ again, and set out to prove that I would be a valuable contributor in the executive office. I enjoyed every day, getting to know the staff and soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I had never worked a normal nine-to-five job, so I was ready to put in the time and hours required to be the best. My duties involved managing Stan’s calendar and day-to-day logistics, but I was also involved in player transactions, medical paperwork, daily communications to and from the NHL, player/staff immigration, assisting with the day-to-day operations of the team (equipment transfers, player/family flights, hotels, per diem, etc.), organizing scouting, hockey operations and NHL Draft meetings, and game-day logistics for hockey operations – a little bit of everything! As time has passed, I have accumulated ever-increasing responsibilities. It has been fascinating to see how a large-scale NHL organization operates and how the various departments come together in a bigger picture. I have had the privilege to attend and contribute in meetings about player development, amateur/pro scouting, trade deadlines and free agency, and I thrive off the pressure-packed environment. The more I expose myself to things, the more I continue to learn.
About two years ago, I asked Stan if I could take on more and diversify myself to continue to develop. I wasn’t sure what that would entail, but I wanted to continue to grow and use my hockey mind even more. We decided that scouting would be a natural next step with my playing background, general knowledge and passion for the game, not to mention the countless hours I’ve spent working with the scouts. I generally scout around the Chicago area, in the USHL and with amateur players in the NCAA, but I do cross over at times into the OHL and other leagues. This year has been very interesting due to the COVID-19 pandemic; we find ourselves watching a tiny screen at players whose leagues are actually able to play.
All of my duties mean a tricky balance, but I love the challenge. I’m thankful the Blackhawks believe in me and provide me with opportunities. Jill has been amazingly supportive, allowing me to push the envelope and chase my dreams. We both encourage each other to strive for success in our careers.
My path in life has not been linear, but I’ve worked my way up and gained respect from my peers and coworkers in a male-dominated profession, regardless of my gender or sexuality. I believe my adaptability and flexibility to ever-changing responsibilities and priorities has served me well. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me, but I also realize I have put the work in to create them.
I hope I can continue to drive opportunities for women in hockey and society. Growing up, I could have never imagined it could be possible to have the jobs I’ve had. I’ve never thought of myself as a pioneer or role model, but giving visibility to women in an NHL organization is something I’m very proud of.
I’m excited to continue to push the envelope in my career and grind my way to a Stanley Cup. Like I’ve said, dreams and goals evolve. I may have wanted to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup, but now I want to raise it over my head and drink out of it as a staff member with the Chicago Blackhawks along with my wife, parents, siblings, niece, nephews, family and friends.