Katherine Henderson speaking with studentsKatherine Henderson, president and CEO of Hockey Canada, visited the Faculty of Human Kinetics Monday, sharing with students her insights on the state of sports in the nation.

Hockey Canada president offers advice and insights

It was a winding career path that brought Katherine Henderson to the helm of Hockey Canada.

“I started out as a dietitian,” she told the more than 100 students, staff, and faculty who attended a panel discussion in the Faculty of Human Kinetics Monday. Now, she is the president and chief executive officer for the governing body of Canada’s national winter sport.

Henderson assumed the helm of Hockey Canada in September in the midst of a shake-up in the organization. She had been CEO of Curling Canada for seven years, during which time she championed pay equity for the sport’s female players.

But her route into sport management first included stops at Whirlpool, Colgate-Palmolive, Campbell Soup, and General Mills. She later combined her marketing skills with her love of sport, becoming vice-president of marketing and revenue for the Toronto Organizing Committee for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games.

“We need good people in sport,” she told the students. “It’s a career path that is incredibly enriching.”

Her visit Monday was arranged through her son, a UWindsor student who took professor Terry Eddy’s course “Introduction to the Sport Industry” in the Faculty of Human Kinetics last year.

“This is a good example of how networks work,” Dr. Eddy said. “When you are out and being active, opportunities come along.”

Eddy moderated a panel discussion which included Henderson, UWindsor athletic director Stephanie White, and sport management and leadership professor Patti Millar. The three women covered topics including the success of the Professional Women’s Hockey League, barriers to sport participation, and growth opportunities in the Canadian sport system.

Henderson pointed to Norway’s Children’s Rights in Sports which allows all children to play the sport of their choice. The model has led to lower instances of vandalism and petty crime, and lower health care costs.

She said Hockey Canada is investigating ways to make hockey more affordable for families, and make it possible for children to start playing at older ages. Integrating new immigrants into the sport is also crucial.

Henderson said she is often approached by students looking to launch their careers in sport management. “I’ll meet with anyone who asks,” she said, but since she isn’t involved in hiring entry-level employees, she’s not the right person to approach. Her advice to students: connect with UWindsor alumni who graduated in the past two or three years and are now working in the industry.

Henderson had a specific message to the Lancer athletes interested in sport management careers. “You will have a very important voice. The more that athletes can articulate that perspective, the better the decisions that will be made.”

Jess Dixon, head of the faculty’s kinesiology department and a professor in the sport management and leadership program, said Henderson’s visit offered a glimpse into the state of the industry.

“This is a tremendously valuable opportunity for our students,” Dr. Dixon said. “Katherine is one of the leading sports executives in Canada and we are very privileged to have her share her insights and expertise with us.”

Academic Area: