Transfer athletes find ideal hockey-academics balance at BG
MBA program a major attraction
They were well aware of the National Championship that had put Bowling Green State University on the continent's hockey map in big, bold letters. They knew the University's hockey program had sent players to the professional ranks. They saw the numerous championship banners. And, they had experienced the electricity and thunder during games at the campus ice house, or heard about it.
So, when Gabriel Chicoine, Nathan Burke and Coale Norris joined the Falcon Hockey program in 2021 as transfer student-athletes, they could see the evidence of a past rich with success, and that BGSU was a place where hockey was very important.
But this trio of talented transfers also saw the future – their future careers.
All three are enrolled in the University's one-year Master of Business Administration program in the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business, with their eyes set on careers in the business world once their days of playing competitive ice hockey end.
Attracted by legacy of excellence
“I was looking for a place to transfer and with the hockey team here always in the top 20 in the country, it looked like a good option,” said Chicoine, a senior defenseman from St. Dominique in southwestern Quebec. He had previously played three seasons at Division III Norwich in Vermont where he scored 55 points in 67 career games.
“I was interested in finding a program that had higher visibility, someplace where I could get seen more, with the goal of playing professionally. And I knew BG had a strong hockey tradition.”
When he toured the Slater Family Ice Arena, that belief was reinforced. “I saw all of those NHL jerseys hanging in the lounge and that showed how many guys from BG went to the pros,” said Chicoine, who in just three years at Norwich earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering before coming to Bowling Green.
“And I found out there was this great MBA program available here. I want to play pro hockey for a few years, and then that MBA will hopefully open some doors for me.”
Well-acquainted with 'Madhouse on Mercer'
Norris, who spent four years at CCHA rival Ferris State before joining the Falcons, had experienced the charged-up atmosphere at the Slater Family Ice Arena. He said the hockey program's strong reputation was part of the allure when he considered his transfer options.
“Obviously, the hockey tradition here stood out for me, and the winning tradition. That made Bowling Green an extremely impressive place to play,” said Norris, a forward who had 31 goals and 32 assists in 122 games at Ferris. “The coaching staff was super personable and you heard nothing but good things about them. And another big factor was that after playing here against Bowling Green, I knew the atmosphere was second to none.”
Norris, whose hometown is Oxford in southeast Michigan, earned his bachelor's degree in data analytics. He said that off the ice, the possibility of earning an MBA while playing his final year of collegiate hockey paved the way for him becoming a Falcon.
“My undergrad work was pretty specific, so I wanted to find a more business-oriented area of post-graduate study, so the MBA here really stood out to me,” he said. “I knew I wanted to get my master's degree and the MBA program at BG was recommended by a lot of people. It was a pretty easy sell for me.”
Norris said he is very enthusiastic about the curriculum, which he feels will best prepare him for a potential career in sales, sports analytics or a managerial role in the business world.
“I think the classes are super useful and relatable, since we focus on material connected to real-world business issues and problems,” he said. “It is a broad program and they involve business people with different backgrounds, which helps the students see what might be of interest to them. And it's a plus that the teachers are helpful.”
Norris plans to consider his professional hockey options once he completes his studies at BGSU, but he expects to be well-prepared for a career in business when the time comes for that transition.
“As a hockey player, you always want to see what is out there, but I'm confident that having that Bowling Green MBA on my resume is always going to be a big bonus.”
Drawn to academics-athletics balance
Burke, a forward from Arizona, previously played at the University of Minnesota where he had 13 goals and 15 assists in three seasons. He took 16 hours of classes remotely over the past summer in order to earn his undergraduate degree in finance and be ready to enroll in the MBA program in the fall.
“I've always enjoyed learning, whether it is in hockey or academics, so once I heard that Bowling Green offered this unique one-year MBA program, it was an easy decision to come here,” said Burke, whose parents are Ohio natives. “The MBA program is very participation-based and it keeps everyone engaged. You get to meet people outside of hockey, there is a lot of networking, and I feel like you are being well-prepared for the business world.”
Burke, who has been nominated for the 2022 Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in NCAA Division I hockey, said he sees his post-hockey future as involving work as a financial advisor, or in portfolio management. “I've always thought about being an entrepreneur and starting my own business, and this MBA program is providing me with a good foundation for my future.”
The opportunity to earn his MBA while playing in a hockey program with a star-studded legacy provided Burke with the ideal combination of academics and athletics.
“I think for most players it ultimately comes down to how comfortable you are with the coaches, and they've been great,” he said. “Simply put, I knew this was a hard-working place with a lot of fan support. I heard about the madhouse the ice arena is on game nights and imagined myself playing in front of that kind of crowd. For a hockey player, there's nothing better than that.”
Winning the trifecta
For BGSU hockey head coach Ty Eigner, landing Burke, Norris and Chicoine was equivalent to winning the trifecta.
“Nathan, Coale and Gabriel have all been really positive additions to our program,” Eigner said. “They are great people and because of that they have fit into our team really well. They have also made our team better because of the kind of players they are.”
Eigner said that since the three are outstanding students, academics played a big role in their decisions to come to BG. “The quality of the MBA program on campus was a big deal for each of them. When we ask them about their experience so far, they are all incredibly happy with the decision to come to BGSU.”
Tom Daniels, assistant director of the Graduate & Executive Programs in Business at BGSU, said that about 25 student-athletes have enrolled in the MBA program in recent years.
“Having a strong MBA program with the highest accreditation you can get is very attractive to these student-athletes,” he said. “We bring in guest speakers and cover relevant topics, with an emphasis on leadership and management. The education goes beyond the classroom and I think it is a great fit for them because they show a maturity and a focus on their studies. They are engaged in the work as model student-athletes.”
Burke said the academics-athletics balance at BG was apparent to him.
“I'm a big believer that if you work hard on the school aspect, you will work just as hard on the ice,” he said. “So, what attracted me to BG was just the pride the students take in their education. When everyone is getting their work done, that's something I think is contagious.”
Updated: 02/02/2022 03:56PM