Mix a love of hockey with an equal portion of business expertise and a heaping measure of respect for Laker Men’s Hockey Head Coach Ed Gosek ’83 M’01, and the result is a topnotch leadership development opportunity for an eager graduate student at SUNY Oswego.
“What I like about hockey players is that they’re genuine,” says Fred Festa ’81, owner of the NHL’s N.Y. Rangers minor league affiliate, the Greenville (S.C.) Road Warriors hockey team, and chairman and chief executive officer of W.R. Grace & Co. “They don’t generally have an air about them. Every player has to take a hit for the team. Everyone takes shifts throughout the game. I think these traits apply to being a great leader. A great leader has to be real.”
To help cultivate leaders who will succeed on and off the ice, Festa, a 2013 Oswego Presidential Medal winner, and his wife, MaryLynn Barbero Festa ’82, created the Festa Assistantship Award for Men’s Hockey. The endowed assistantship provides a learning and mentoring opportunity for a graduate student whose interest includes a future in coaching.
The recipient of the first Festa Assistantship is Kyle Laughlin M’15 of Gambrills, Md., a former player with the Huntsville Havoc hockey team and the Providence College Friars and an MBA student in the School of Business.
“I wouldn’t be here without this assistantship,” Laughlin says. “I’m thrilled with the experience because I have gotten to learn from some of the best coaches in the country.”
Festa says his own internship experience in college helped give him a jumpstart on his career. He established the assistantship because he says the best way to learn about leadership is watching mentors in action—how they handle themselves in high-stress and low-stress situations, and how they treat their employees and peers in those situations.
For Laughlin, he says some of his biggest lessons about leadership have come from Coach Gosek’s actions
off the ice.
“He emphasizes the importance of strong character, integrity, being on time, and is very strict with the team all year round,” Laughlin says. “Most of the players come onto the team having been the best player on their high school team. And they quickly realize they need to adapt to a higher level of play on the ice and higher expectations off the ice.
“I couldn’t believe how much time and attention the coaching staff spends on details and on preparation,” he says. “All of it matters and plays into the success of the team.”
Gosek and his coaching staff’s preparation and execution of their plan helped a team with 24 new members and only a handful of returning players win the 2014 SUNYAC championship title and compete in the NCAA Division III Frozen Four.
“If your team has talent, you can win a lot of games,” Gosek says. “But you won’t win championships or advance in the postseason without talent and character. Character is a huge component.”
Gosek says he is grateful and humbled by Festa’s support for the hockey program and for the “youthful enthusiasm and knowledge” that Laughlin has brought to the team. Last season, Laughlin handled scouting reports, training the players in the weight room and going over the “system breakdown between periods.”
“Kyle exemplifies the type of character we want our players to have,” Gosek says. “My hope is that he gains an understanding that coaching and leadership aren’t about the Xs and Os. It’s about communication.”
And Festa says there’s no one better at Oswego to teach those lessons than Coach Gosek.