At every level, the hockey offseason is supposed to be a long-awaited respite from the punishing gauntlet of the game’s seven-plus month regular campaign. The summer months offer a chance to unwind from the never-ending grind of stress and emotion that befalls anyone who has any connection to a professional hockey team – regardless of if they wear their squad’s jersey on the ice, in the crowd or in front of a television screen.

Fans often spend the offseason in a number of different ways. Some groups have the chance to rally around their squad – seeing a draft pick or a key acquisition as a beacon of light that will lead their beloved team out of the doldrums and into serious contention (see Example A).

Edmonton Oilers v Arizona Coyotes

Example A

Most fanbases spend the time away from hockey recovering from the season prior, that did not provide the ending they were hoping for (or have recently come to expect.) These fans meticulously anticipate and break down every roster move made, impatiently waiting for October to come, and the next chance to take their spot atop their respective league (see Example B).


Example B

And of course there are the select few fans who spend the offseason basking in the glory of their team’s championship run the previous spring. These fans will remind everyone they meet of their group’s accomplishments, and are for the most part completely insufferable – except when you are one of them (see Example C).


Example C

It is important to add that there is a cross-section of supporters from all teams that are just happy that their favorite players have stayed out of trouble in their time away from the rink, and who sleep easy at night knowing that their beloved team is not currently the subject of various criminal investigations (see everyone except Examples B and C).

Of course, the time spanning the end of the playoffs and the beginning of training camp is generally most important for the hockey players themselves; those whom the marathon season have taxed physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Players at every level cherish the offseason, using it as a chance to heal their wounds, unwind and reconnect with family and friends and train themselves for the season to come.

A video posted by Chad Moreau (@btfdoc) on

Or as Dustin Brown calls it, Beast Mode™.

The significance of the offseason is ramped up considerably for those who have finished the last year of their contracts. The life of a professional free agent is equal parts stress and excitement. It combines the allure of cashing a much bigger paycheck, the promise of a potential fresh start in a new place, and the always-present fear of a lack of interest from the  market and the accompanying threat of demotion (to either the minor leagues, Europe or even worse – the real world.)

While their collegues with plenty of time left on their current contracts can be found posing nude on ice resurfacing machines or writing technical goaltending blogs that put the work of yours truly to shame, free agents spend their time hashing out deals with their agent and potential suitors, or in the gym trying to maximize their value to said potential suitors. Or they might just spend their time dropping some sick beats and becoming the next great electronic music producer.


What is the greater accomplishment?
RT for scoring an OT GWG in the NHL Western Conference Finals
or FAV for getting a club gig on the weekend of Lollapalooza

Like so many other hockey players, I realized a while ago that my own playing career would end up just shy of inking that lucrative professional contract. It might seem hard to believe and a tad bit unfair, but third-string goalies at middle-of-the-road Division III schools rarely end up in the NHL. But instead of being smart selling out and doing what those dorky athletes in the NCAA commercials do (you know, become a professional in something other than sports,) I decided to essentially disregard my college education and began to persue a career in the sports media field.   Similar to other, more respectable lines of work, the road to the media big leagues begins as an indentured servant – or intern as they call it in the corporate world.

I spent a summer chipping in at the non-profit, service dog-training organization my mother worked at; three months of posting pet videos on Twitter to a follower base comprised of middle-aged people who didn’t know a retweet from a dog treat.   After that brief introductory course in the office world, over the next couple years I was able to parlay a media relations internship with a summer league baseball team to a similar internship with a professional lacrosse team, finally to what seemed as the big break – a communications job with a minor league hockey team.

It was essentially my dream job; I got to write every day, make snarky jokes on social media, and working overtime meant watching a professional hockey game from the press box. The only catch was that instead of cash, the other interns and myself were paid with leftovers from game night staff meals and free-haircut coupons.

  The latest batch of sports media interns on the job hunt.

Where completing an internship with even a general measure of competence is usually enough to ensure an entry-level position in many big-time corporations or firms, the sports industry is a different story. Teams, especially in the minor-league ranks, rely heavily on interns to operate, but just don’t have the financial capability to hire on new full-time employees on a year-after-year basis.   Most minor-league front offices are smaller in stature than one single area at most business operations. You have one or two people calling the shots at the top, followed by four or five departmental directors or managers – all rounded out with a handful of eager interns who often pull the same weight as many of the full-time employees.

The small-scale nature of minor-league sports is great when you have a seat at the table and have a place to work, it is incredible experience for anyone and forces you to wear a lot of different hats from day-to-day and week-to-week, but it can be a massive downer when you are on the outside looking in. And once again, that’s where I found myself this past summer after completing what was internship number four.

Complicating matters slightly, I had just finished the final year of my entry-level contract (a.k.a. had just completed the last unpaid internship which my parents would help support me through before legally disowning me and suing me for damages.) So knowing that I had to find a way to make an opening night roster, rather than just settling for another amateur tryout contract, I dove back into the murky waters of the front office free agent market.

I will not bore you with the details of the first stages of my job search, just know they consisted of many hours of scouring sports job boards, sending endless feeler emails (hey distinguished sports communication professional, you don’t know me but you should totally give me a job), sending dozens and dozens of actual job applications, all resulting in not a whole lot of responses.


  Perhaps this is why people weren’t lining up to hire me.

The following statement may seem absolutely preposterous, but I’m going to make it anyway: going pro in a front-office capacity is almost harder than going pro as an athlete. Before you call shenanigans, let me build my case.

Say you are a young forward in the CHL, entering your draft class with the ultimate goal of making an NHL roster. Let’s generalize and say that each team has space for 15 forwards on their active regular season roster, so across the entire league there are, in theory, 450 spots up for grabs. While obviously the majority of those spots are already taken by existing NHLers, there is a near-constant turnover with players retiring, going to Europe, or having their contracts suddenly terminated.



Now, say your dream is to be the head of Media Relations for an NHL organization. There are only 30 of those type of jobs in the league, and in most cases, their job security is on much more solid ground then the players on their teams. For example, the poor sucker who wants Vin Scully’s job has been waiting for over 50 years.


Additionally, the possible candidate pool to fill a vacant Communications Manager position is exponentially larger than that for the role of a puck-moving defenseman. It is not out of the realm of possibility for someone who worked for a Major League Baseball team to snag an NHL front office job. It would be much more surprising if Dean Lombardi signed Yasiel Puig to replenish his team’s depth at center.

Go King Goes, indeed.

Three months, over a hundred cover letters and a lot of patience later, I finally found a team that was willing to pay me actual currency for doing digital media stuff for them. While it is still a few giant steps away from the NHL, it is a start.

What was the point of this long-winded post? Mostly as an excuse to talk about the one and only DJ Pendemic. But also to shed some light on a lesser-known side of the sports industry.  So next time you are at home on your computer or browsing on your phone, wondering how the hell someone has made a living posting garbage on social media on behalf of a professional sports team, just know that they beat out a lot of aspiring garbage-posters to get that job.

And every one of them would have been better off getting a degree in something real.

Oh well.

Knick Rickle was a former junior and college goaltender and is a current aspiring journalist and mediocre adult league goaltender. While growing up in Minneapolis, he learned how to play by attending Robb Stauber's goalie school, which unbeknownst to him at the time was the first step in becoming a Kings fan. The rest of the steps came when became probably the first person ever to move to California from Minnesota to play hockey. He currently is unemployed, holds an English degree, while contributing to #TeamTRH, so you be the judge how his hockey career turned out. You can follow KnickRickle on Twitter @KnickRickle.