Blaze "special bond" with Coventry Business School

Since 2002, the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze have held a prosperous, and longstanding relationship with Coventry University allowing a number of players throughout those years to combine study with playing.

The majority of players have taken advantage of courses offered through the well-respected Business School, taking an important step to enhancing career prospects once their playing days are over.

The outstanding level of education and qualification received has led many of our former players onto successful and lucrative careers post-hockey. This includes, Doug Schueller (Head Coach at St John’s University), Chris McNamara (President, AMT Surgery and Vantage Endoscopy), Neal Martin (Regional Sales Manager, AMT Electrosurgery), Shea Guthrie (Account Manager, Sophos) and Dan Carlson (Financial Advisor, TruCairn Advisors) amongst many others.

This past summer, Graham Schlender (Owner, Homes By Highgate), who along with a number of the names above won the Grandslam with Coventry in 2005 took the time to catch up with this us saying, “I owe a lot of gratitude to the many people at Coventry University, especially Webby (Ian Webster) and (Neville) Clements. The degree has opened many doors in my career and certainly has been a part of my success in life after hockey."

The current season has seen Captain Jordan Pietrus Graduate from the Business School, proudly taking on a teaching role too.

The Canadian said, “Studying at Coventry University wasn’t something I was expecting when I first arrived in the UK – however the opportunity to enrol was presented to me and I jumped at it. The biggest challenge was managing my time – I’d attend classes before and after practice, in addition to assignments, group projects and of course games made my schedule very busy. I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive wife who encouraged me every step of the way, now I’ve finished the course it’s nice to have more time to spend with her exploring Coventry and the English countryside during our free time.”

British forward Russ Cowley is another who continues to study whilst playing an important role on the ice. The 33-year-old has recently passed a third year of his PhD, now progressing to a write up year in order to be able to put Dr. ahead of his name.

“The subject area of my study is Consumer Behaviour,” Russ told us. “In more detail, I am looking at transgression in sport when athletes are involved, through behaviours that are immoral/illegal both on and off the field, and how this impacts fan behaviours.”

Moving into his 10th (and final year) of study, including college and university, whilst playing professionally, Russ says it’s been a rewarding experience before going on to praise the valued relationship between the club and the university.

“After ten years, you could say that I am very accustomed to it! Even though I play sport full-time professionally, hockey isn't going to last forever so I have appreciated the importance of setting up life after hockey. My PhD is separate from the team/university partnership, but it was the team/university relationship that set me up for achieving my PhD place. I did my undergrad and masters through the hockey team. I will say that the relationship between the team and the university is fantastic. It has been a partnership for many years now, and I can see it maintaining that for years to come. I'm very appreciative of the Blaze organisation committing to me and providing me with the opportunity to attend university. At the same time, the university have been very accommodating in the fact that I play professional hockey, and have been great in supporting me where necessary throughout all of my studies.”

Like his Captain, Cowley speaks of the challenges of balancing commitments – helped too by a supportive wife!

“In terms of studying whilst playing hockey it has certainly been tough at times. Rachel and I have a beautiful daughter so we do our best to juggle our work commitments with family commitments. Rach is good at understanding, which certainly helps me out. Monday is my only day where we try to do something as a family, but at times where I have deadlines with uni work, I will have to work on Monday's too. Bus trips give time to get uni work done, especially when going to Scotland, although it can be tough to concentrate in the bus environment. All the uni guys will tell you the same thing, they get work done but at times it can be hard to concentrate. But, I’m in my final year of study now, so there is light at the end of the tunnel!”

James Pease, Blaze’s Director of Hockey Operations said, "The partnership with the Business School is one of the most successful partnerships that the Blaze operate. We have been working together for over ten years and, from a recruitment standpoint, having the business school places is invaluable as it really helps attract higher end players on the market. It’s also a crucial tool in helping to retain players who have a successful first year with us and attract interest from far higher paying leagues in Europe for example. So, on behalf of the club and all of the players who have benefited from the relationship, we would again like to say a massive thank you to Coventry University and the Business School and we look forward to continuing the partnership for many years to come."

Ian Webster (Senior Lecturer in Sport and Event Management) commented, “We are very proud of the partnership we have forged and developed with the Blaze and really feel that we are more than just a provider of high quality education for the players. The opportunity to work closely with James, Mike, Andy and the team on many fronts has also allowed for hundreds of our students to gain valuable volunteering and work experience on match nights, help plan and execute special Blaze related events, and offer pathways for our graduates into full-time roles within the organisation.

“I remember clearly, along with my colleague Nev Clements (Principle Lecturer in Sport Management), August 2002 when we were first introduced to our first two Blaze student recruits, both sat outside our Dean’s office donning baseball caps and tracksuits (one wearing his baseball cap backwards!). Introducing themselves as a netminder, Jody (Lehman) and defenceman, Andreas (Moborg). Who would have thought that this would be the start of, not only a partnership between the Business School/University and the Blaze, but also, on a personal level, the start of lifelong friendships between Nev, myself and the Blaze players.

“Yes, at first we had a strong competitive advantage over other teams with the ability to attract high quality players, especially evident in the Grand Slam winning season of 04/05 when our Blaze ‘students’ included Martin, Lehman, Carlson, Calder, Cowley, Schueller, Schlender, McNamara, Shea and not forgetting Pease.

“It’s great to see that many of the corporate boxes at the SkyDome named after players who have gone through the educational partnership and that the 25/26 retired shirt numbers of AC/DC were as strong a partnership in the classroom as it was on the ice!

“Fast forward to today and every Elite League team now has a relationship with a local University, but none of them have the same relationship that Coventry Business School has with the Blaze. We take immense pride in how we try and look after the players’ welfare and academic workload, especially during busy periods of the season, and (fingers crossed) a good play-off run, but we also offer some of the best ranked Sport Business and Management degrees in Europe that are globally recognised and have helped players seek fantastic graduate careers once they have hung up their skates.

“We hope the special bond we have with the Blaze continues to strengthen and leads to even more success both on and off the ice.”

Find out more about the Coventry University Business School: