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Diversity in Sports Interview Series: Darryl Dionne (MSA '07), PHPA

Tuesday, March 29 2016 09:40am

This week Kelley Johnson, MSA class of 2017, had the opportunity to catch up with Darryl Dionne, Director of Marketing, Communications, & Business Development for the Professional Hockey Players' Association (PHPA), as part of our Diversity in Sports Interview Series. Below is Darryl’s take on diversity as it relates to his work, life, and time spent at Ohio University.

What are some of your daily duties in your current role?

I think about my position with the PHPA as one that involves diverse responsibilities and a diverse skill set. I handle all communications and public relations, in addition to corporate sales, activation, and revenue generation, all PHPA events, protection of player likeness rights and the development of player licensed products (e.g. trading cards), e-commerce, apparel, digital and social media content, community and youth hockey programming, and just about every miscellaneous project that comes our way. In this role, I have to be versatile in what I do, balance my time wisely, and really know how to manage relationships.


How is diversity beneficial in your work environment? How does it impact your decision-making?

I work in a smaller office (10 full-time employees), yet the PHPA is the second largest player association in terms of membership in pro sports behind only the NFLPA. So we retain a diverse group of experts with their own unique skill sets to assist with various matters on an as needed basis instead of employing them full-time. I have been fortunate to work closely and learn from some of the absolute best attorneys, financial advisors, sponsorship experts, IT professionals, accountants, agents, graphic designers, brand developers, insurance brokers, equipment manufacturers, television producers, as well as players and many others whose opinions and counsel help direct and impact the way in which we run our operations.

For example, if I am working on a project and in need of a second opinion on a certain aspect, I seek out colleagues whose strengths and expertise can help best achieve our goals. It’s important to reach out to others when you need it—and for colleagues to know they can reach out to you in return.


How does diversity impact you and your organization on a daily basis?

Our association has a fairly transient membership base of approximately 1,600 members consisting of players of varying ages from not only North America but all over the world. We have players coming from European countries, Asia, and Australia. One of the biggest challenges relates to language barriers.  We have to be very mindful of that as we explain to players what their union does for them.  Fortunately, some of my colleagues are bilingual and can speak English and French. I also hired a writer who is fluent in English and Russian to help us communicate with Russian players and players from other countries where the language is close to Russian.  He often interviews Russian-speaking players and then translates the story to English.

Instances like this allow us to include more player perspectives and share their stories on North American platforms while the Russian version of the story is then shared on large Russian social media platforms. This is where diversity and communication tie together. From our end, we work to be as transparent as possible with our players as an informed membership is a strong membership, which is particularly important during collective bargaining negotiations.


What can the sport industry do to improve diversity?

You just want everyone to at least get a fair shake.  For example, staying with hockey, hockey operations positions are male dominated. We need to recognize that there are other talented people out there, with diverse perspectives and backgrounds that could do the job as well. 

I need to be cognizant of this as a parent too. I have two daughters.What if one or both of them dream of a career in hockey operations and want to become a General Manager of a pro team one day? You just want them to be given a fair chance to not only pursue but also achieve their goals and dreams. 


Describe your experiences at OU in terms of diversity.

In my MSA class, I was one of two Canadians. It was intimidating moving to a new country for the first time.  However, the friendliness of everyone in the program helped alleviate this feeling pretty quick.  My classmates were absolutely awesome. They welcomed my Canadian view on sports where hockey is number one, while going through two years at Ohio helped me comprehend the sport industry in the US which is quite different than in Canada, and which has helped me in my current role.  It was an eye opening experience for me and I am grateful to this day that I went through the program.


What do you think individuals need to be mindful of as they begin their careers in the sports industry?

They need to be willing to grow, evolve, and continuously refine their skill sets.  Don’t be shy to reach out to those currently working in the industry for help and advice.  Not only be nice to people, but be helpful to them. Strive to be known as the “go-to” person within the organization.  Put your best effort forward in all that you do and don’t take shortcuts or cut corners.  It really does get noticed whether you realize it or not.



Check out the rest of our Diversity Interview Series:

Kenisha Webb, Just Marketing International

Tara Jackson, UFC

Joseph Watkins, Lincoln University

Martin Graham, Orlando Magic

Leslie Fields, Northern Kentucky University

Bryan Delgado, ESPN Events