Name: Duane Lewis
Current Job Title: Commissioner
Company Name: Central Hockey League
First sports job: Counselor at Youth Sports Camp
College education: B.A. in Economics
Executive most admired: Roger Goodell
Brand most admired: Southwest Airlines
I was lucky enough to intern several summers at the NHL Office, which gave me a taste of what it was like to work in a league office at the highest level of hockey. After my college years, I played professional hockey in our league for a season, and then came to the Western Professional Hockey League (now d.b.a. Central Hockey League) in August of 1997. I have been here for 14 years, and the last 3 in the position of Commissioner out of the Hockey Operations Department. I now oversee the league in terms of the day-to-day operations, expansion, and support for our member clubs. It is very rewarding when you see a franchise be successful, and the way it changes the entire community with their support for their professional sports teams.
Tell us a little about your first job in the sports industry. How did you land it?
My actual first job was a counselor for many years at a youth sports camp, and it was through our high school teachers that I knew. As far as my first real full-time sports job it was here at the WPHL as Manager of Hockey Operations. I played in the League in the first year of operation, and applied to the League Office for any openings there or with a member club. They offered me the job and I donít even remember asking what it paid, but that it was exactly what I wanted to do, and I got to move to Phoenix.
How does working in sports differ from working in other industries?
This is a tough question for me as my entire life has been spent in hockey in some capacity. The fact that you work in an industry that most people are involved with in their lives and can relate to is the most exciting. Many people in my part of the industry are former athletes, coach their kidís sports teams, watch sports, and talk about our business daily. It allows you to quickly relate to so many people that you meet. Being involved in something that is your true passion and has been your life is very exciting and makes you want to go to work each day.
What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?
I believe you have to have passion for whatever you do; it makes the difference for you in your lifeís experiences, and allows you to succeed yourself and helps the success of the company you work for. You need to do research on what you are going to get into. There are long hours involved in this business, so you have to be prepared for that, but if you love it, then you donít notice the time you put in.
What advice would you give to people in established careers trying to make the transition into sports?
There are so many people that you talk to about what you do who always say ďI would love to do thatĒ. You need to get to know people in the industry who live it on a daily basis to see what it is they enjoy and donít enjoy from their jobs. That way you are able to make an educated decision on the career path that you want Ė you donít want to make a decision just because it is in the sports industry. I think that would go for someone looking to make a move from any industry to another.
We all know that working in sports generally involves long hours. What are the perks that offset this?
I mentioned this aspect of the job before. If you enjoy your job, no matter what it is, then it doesnít seem to bother you. If you have a family you need to balance all aspects of your life, and need an understanding family (which luckily I have). You get to be an a field of work that many people want to be in, and one that is rewarding because no matter what your position is, you play a significant role in providing entertainment to people who use sports as an escape, and gets them excited to cheer for their team and their community. Not every job is rewarding in these respects Ė how can you not like that?
When hiring, what major traits do you look for in a candidate?
The biggest things for me are passion, teamwork and integrity. If you have the passion you will work hard and realize success. If have the ability to work as a team player, then you strengthen everyone around you and increase the effectiveness more than you can working by yourself. At the end of the day, integrity is sometimes all that you have Ė I use that expression a lot. There are times in life when people will question that in you, and if you can put your head on your pillow at night and know you did the right thing, that is all you can ask for despite the challenges you are presented with by others.