Brett Barnes has already shown creative flair and considerable drive in his career approach. Following his passion, he’s part of the first ever business of hockey cohort in the Hockey MBA program —but while others are gearing towards front office positions in professional hockey, Barnes has something else in mind.

He comes by his passion honestly, from an early age: as a minor hockey defenseman from the age of six; a referee from 12 through to his 20s, a goalie equipment salesman, and now associate with RWG Sport Management in Penticton, B.C. “I respect the game so much, to be in a position to educate myself to serve the game, and to help players with their careers, that would validate me on a day-to-day basis in my work,” he says.

How does he aim to do that? By earning his NHL player agent certification, and equipping himself with the same business knowledge his management counterparts hold. With a BA in history from UBC-Okanagan, he values the differing subject matter and perspectives offered in the Hockey MBA program.

Barnes has applied the same hustle he learned on the ice to his budding career, investing huge amounts of time and energy in building relationships with players as young as 14, and more importantly at that age, their families. Successful agents establish trust over a period of years and require a lot of patience while young players develop and eventually, if all works out, get drafted and sign pro contracts.

But there’s a lot more to the process than most people realize. Ritch Winter, BHI co-founder and one of the NHL’s elite agents, explains: “It’s more than negotiating contracts.” Knowing about international tax regimes, marketing, talent evaluation and other aspects of the business will take Barnes beyond the “on-the-job” education most agents carry. Winter says great players like Marian Hossa and Mark Giordano (both are his clients) “are constantly working to get better…likewise for an agent.”

The added legitimacy his Hockey MBA affords, when combined with his work ethic and his authentic personality, will position Brett Barnes to be a leader in his field. “A lot of players come from affluent backgrounds,” Barnes observes, “and an MBA grad comes across with more credibility.”