by Brea Burkholz || AHL On The Beat Archive
Education has always been an important aspect of Milwaukee Admirals forward Ben Guite’s life. The Montreal native recently graduated from the University of Maine with a master’s degree in business administration, a level of accomplishment rare among professional athletes.
With the unique blend of his parents’ support and his own hard work and determination, Guite was able to excel academically while continuing to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL.
Guite started playing hockey as a child following in the footsteps of his father, Pierre, who played professionally in the late 1970’s.
“I always loved playing the game,” Guite said. “I’ve wanted to play in the NHL since I was a boy.”
His talent and athleticism led him to play all four years as a Black Bear at the University of Maine despite being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens after his freshman year. Guite’s decision to attend college came down to two things: guidance from his father and a desire for education.
“My dad went the major junior way when he was young,” Guite said. “After his experience he said if he had a son, he’d send him to the States to play in college.”
Playing major juniors in Canada wasn’t as conducive to a school schedule as Guite would have liked.
“I wanted to be able to keep playing hockey on the highest level of competition possible, but still be able to finish school,” Guite said. “In NCAA hockey, you’re playing the best of the best in the country.”
Despite the lingering potential of playing in the NHL, Guite stayed focused on his primary goal, achieving a degree.
“I was drafted after my freshman year,” Guite said. “In the back of my mind it was always there, but not once did going pro early cross my mind. School was important to me and I had to finish.”
After graduating from Maine, the Montreal Canadiens called upon Guite and offered him a contract. “I still wanted to play hockey, so that was the next step,” he said.
Guite began his pro career in the 2000-01 season, but the education bug lingered, and soon he would be given the opportunity to advance academically. His decision to return to school was a relatively simple one.
“I didn’t know what to do with an English major,” Guite said. “At the time, school offered a program where you could do your M.B.A. in 12 courses; I was in still in school mode, so I went back.”
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Guite’s unique career and lifestyle proved to make things a bit more challenging, but with assistance from university staff and some modifications, he was able to work around his hockey schedule.
“I took some courses at a distance, summer and online classes,” Guite said.
Because of his situation, it took about six years to finish the program, but the result was well worth the time and effort.
“It’s almost a patched-together degree,” Guite laughed. “They helped me a lot to get through it and get it done.”
Preparing for life after hockey has always been a realistic part of life for Guite. “I had the business minor, so I wanted to make myself more marketable if hockey didn’t work out,” He said.
Having a father who played professional hockey provided Guite first-hand experience with life post-hockey. After retiring from the game, Guite’s father settled in Florida, where he worked for a time in real estate and is now in sales.
When asked if his father served as an example of preparing for life after hockey, Guite agreed.
“Absolutely,” Guite said. “Not just my dad but my mom also. Both of my parents worked really hard to put both my sister and I through school. They are both great examples of determination and hard work; they always went the extra distance and are great role models for me.”
Not only did his time in school prepare him for the future, but it also proved to be useful during his off-time.
“The homework was — well, I won’t say easy — but it was a nice change of pace. When I got home I didn’t have to think about hockey. I could focus on my work.”
As a senior member of the Admirals team Guite is looked to as a source of leadership.
“When you’re younger, you develop your skill and mental aspect of your game to make sure you play well and are consistent,” he said. “As you get older you have a better handle on those things and you’re asked to broaden your spectrum of what you bring to the team.”
One of the most important jobs of a leader is synchronicity, especially when involving a sports team. Guite agrees that leadership on the team is all about getting everybody to work toward a common goal.
“If there’s anything in management and something we learned in class, that was it,” he said. “Making sure all parts are working together in the same focus.”
Guite has noticed that aspects of his management and leadership styles have been acquired and sharpened through his experience in the classroom.
“They bring those skills out in a different light,” he said. “A lot of the work we did in courses was in groups of six or seven people with a different person leading each time. You saw different aspects of the leadership role and you learn to appreciate certain qualities of people and how they do things.”
In the future, Guite is optimistic about prospective careers. He expressed a desire to pursue roles in coaching or managing, allowing him to keep hockey in his life without playing the game.
“Those are things I’d like to do after my time playing hockey comes to an end, but I believe opportunities come to you when you work hard, so we’ll see.”