Detroit – Alex Biega has seen it happen on several occasions during his six-year NHL career.
The Red Wings defenseman has watched as a teammate had his career end suddenly, usually for injury, but maybe simply getting cut, and not getting another shot at the NHL.
With that mind, Biega has been active in the NHL/NHL Players Association Core Development Program (CDP) since its inception in October 2016.
The CDP aims to help the transition for players to careers after hockey, and life after hockey.
“Once I was approached (by the NHLPA) about it, I felt it was a resource that was definitely needed in the NHL,” Beiga said during a phone conversation from his home last week, during the NHL’s pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I’ve been an advocate for it, in terms of how to build it, and from a player’s perspective, what could be utilized from it.
“We’re just in the preliminary stages now, but the sky is the limit for this kind of thing.”
There are two major goals for the CDP:
►To provide players an opportunity to develop a path to success off the ice.
►To provide players a customized strategy to enhance their overall performance during their playing careers – identifying or completing educational endeavors; augmenting financial goals; building networking skills and establishing professional networks; and creating philanthropic, business and career foundations.
The key to all of it, said Biega, is to help the player transition to life after hockey.
“Let’s face it, some guys are fortunate enough to sign very lucrative deals and come out of the game at age 35, or maybe if they’re lucky enough, 38 or 40, and once you retire you might be old in the hockey world, but it’s young in the real world,” Biega said. “Having this program in place now, players can start taking advantage of what is offered. They can learn a little bit more about themselves and their interests and passions and how it can help them prepare when they inevitably are finished with hockey.
“This can help steer them in the right direction in what will be their next passion.”
Biega, 32, has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and an MBA from New Hampshire. He was singled out by the players association to help develop the program.
Biega met with commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly two years ago regarding the CDP.
“They were both very supportive,” Biega said. “They loved it. In conversations with them, it was clear they want to do whatever they can to help players in terms of wellness. They want to do what is right for us in that respect.”
Former Red Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider, now NHLPA special assistant to the executive director, said the CDP will benefit players once their careers are done.
“We believe this will help players reach their full potential on and off the ice,” said Schneider. "It is designed to be flexible and customized to meet many individual needs.”
Said Daly: "This program will afford our players with the opportunity, not only to maximize their performance on the ice, but also the opportunity to advance their lives – and quite possibly the lives of others – off the ice as well.”
Several current Red Wings teammates and former Vancouver teammates have talked to Biega about the program.
“Especially times like this, guys aren’t doing too much, they understand there are resources there and it’s kind of a word-of-mouth thing,” Biega said. “It’s in the beginning stages in terms of marketing, and in terms of taking advantage of it.”
Biega isn’t close to leaving his playing career, but has already prepared for when he hangs up his skates for good. A career in hockey management, some role in a front office, would appeal to Biega.
“I’ve put some thought into it, especially when you have a family,” Biega said. “I want to think I can play for a lot longer and contribute, but you put thought into it. I love the game, and the game has been real good to me.
“The way I look at it, you have to find your passion in what you do and what drives you to wake up every morning, and what makes work not going to be work. Staying in the game in some capacity, I’ve definitely looked into that, whether working in management one day, and gaining a better understanding of how to transition into that.”