01 Feb 1998
A Player's View: Gord Kluzak (MBA '98)by James E. AisnerTopics:
High above the gleaming ice surface of Boston's FleetCenter, Gord Kluzak (MBA '98) gazes down intently at the fast-paced action between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. No ordinary spectator, Kluzak is an Emmy Award–winning TV analyst who, in addition to being an HBS student, also does color commentary for some forty Bruins games a year.
His credentials are impressive: as an 18-year-old, 6' 4", 220-pound defenseman from Saskatchewan, Kluzak was the first player selected overall in the 1982 NHL draft. A recipient of the NHL's Masterton Trophy for dedication, perseverance, and sportsmanship, Kluzak registered an impressive career with the Bruins despite undergoing eleven operations precipitated by a 1984 knee injury. He retired in 1990 and, at age 27, entered Harvard College as a sophomore.
In Kluzak's era a decade ago, the average NHL salary was $150,000. Today, thanks to skilled agents and a powerful players' association, the average player earns $1.1 million. "Because the NHL doesn't have a lucrative, full-season, North America–wide TV contract," explains Kluzak, "steep ticket prices - often beyond the means of ordinary fans - must support those hefty salaries. Sadly, hockey-mad Canada has few cities that can sustain an NHL team economically, so it's losing teams to U.S. cities."
Commenting on the first-time-ever participation of NHL stars on national teams at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, Kluzak says, "I think the Nagano Games will be a great showcase for the NHL. The league will benefit from a surge of interest and support similar to what American hockey experienced after Team USA's hockey gold medal in 1980."
Kluzak, who plans a career in investment management, now limits his hockey playing to an occasional pickup game with his young nephews. "Unfortunately," he says, "hockey is the one sport that aggravates my old injury. Fans hear about big contracts but they should remember that careers like mine can be cut short in an instant. These days," he smiles, "the only stickhandling I do is swinging a golf club."