The NHL Power Players program is back for a third season, giving a group of young fans the opportunity to share their ideas about how the League can better appeal to their generation.
Twenty-seven fans — up from 25 in 2020 and 15 in 2019 — from the U.S. and Canada were selected for the program and this class features 17 girls and 16 new participants.
“We’re thrilled to announce this season’s class of NHL Power Players, a highly diverse and talented group of next generation hockey fans, who will help inform how we market our great game to passionate fans around the world,” said Heidi Browning, NHL senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “NHL Power Players is an engaging program that gives young fans, both young girls and boys, a voice and valuable experience to learn about the NHL’s business.”
The participants will meet remotely throughout the season online and on the phone, and offer suggestions and ideas to various NHL employees about marketing the game, social media content, events, rules of play and community engagement. They each went through a three-part interview process to be selected as an NHL Power Player. A diverse panel of NHL employees and members of the Black Girl Hockey Club made recommendations before the field was narrowed to 27.
Aiden Gunn, a 16-year-old from Bowie, Maryland, is a returning participant and jumped at the chance to take part in the program for a second year in part because of the friendships he made last year, which continued after the season was over.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the business side of sports, and this program has granted me insight on the inner workings of the League,” Gunn said. “This program is very unique in that it allows for constructive, creative, and honest communication between the NHL and the young fans it is trying to connect with.
“Not only was I learning from NHL executives, but the other Power Players as well. I was surrounded by a group of my peers who happened to be some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. By talking to them nearly every day, their advice has proved as valuable as anyone’s and they challenge me to be better.”
Gunn was also encouraged to see an idea from one of the participants last year implemented in the NHL’s social content. Hannah Bloom, a 17-year-old from Dollard Des Ormeaux, Quebec who is returning to the program this year, suggested doing interviews with players’ family members.
Dayton O’Donoghue, a 17-year-old aspiring NCAA Division I hockey player from Toronto, is a first-time participant in the program after having been featured in the NHL’s Fan Skills competition in April. O’Donoghue caught the eyes of the judges for her stickhandling videos and will now get the opportunity to influence the sport as a Power Player. She hopes to see “Student Nights” at NHL games that would offer lower priced tickets for students and create the opportunity to bring the game to more young fans.
“My passion for hockey extends much further than the confines of an arena,” O’Donoghue said. “I am passionate about helping to grow the game and to make it as fun, inclusive and dynamic as possible. I believe that the NHL Power Players will offer me a platform to help shape the future of hockey, listen to other passionate players’ perspectives, and learn and strategize on how we can collaboratively help make the game even better for everyone.
I believe it is essential to evolve in all areas of life, and I would like to promote all that hockey can offer my generation — A generation that is more open to welcoming everlasting change. It’s important to broaden perspectives about the game because I believe that there are many who are not truly familiar with hockey who don’t realize that there’s more to the sport than just being on the ice.”
This year’s group has just gotten to work and Gunn can already tell it’s going to be a memorable experience once again.
“We’ve only had one meeting so far, but it’s not hard to tell we have a special group of kids,” he said. “Last year our chemistry was great and I can already see the cohesiveness blossoming within the team. This sport means the world to me and it’s so meaningful that I now have the opportunity to give back. As long as I’m making a difference, no matter the scale, I look at that as a success.”