Pucks, passion and perseverance
Jim Kyte knows how to reinvent himself.
At 18, he was chosen in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft to play for the Winnipeg Jets. On the ice he earned a reputation as one of the toughest defencemen in the league while playing for Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Ottawa and San Jose. He was the first legally deaf person to play for the NHL.
“I had a lot of people tell me I couldn’t do things because of my hearing impairment,” says Kyte, who will graduate from the Royal Roads University MBA program Oct. 23. “But I had a good role model in my house (in my father) and he said, ‘You may have a handicap, but you don’t have a disability.’”
When a car accident abruptly ended his hockey career in 1997, Kyte’s focus shifted to recovery. He was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and refocused his energies once again. He worked as a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen for four years, writing a sports column called The Point Man.
Around the same time he spearheaded the creation of and then taught in the Sport Business Management graduate program at Algonquin College School of Business in Ottawa. He is now the academic chair of the School of Business there, a position that led him to seek out further education.
As he crosses the stage to receive his degree at fall convocation, he will also be honoured with the Governor General’s Gold Medal, an honour given to the student in a university with the best thesis or major research project.
He focused his organizational management project on the span of control of an academic chair at an Ontario post-secondary institution. In other words, how many people one manager has reporting to them. What he found was that while the responsibility load had grown, resources did not always match that reality. Conducting research on his own position was an exercise in objective thinking, he says. After surveying three other institutions in his area, he provided recommendations to Algonquin College around pay for chairs and reporting structures and other changes to support long-term stability in departments.
“It’s certainly not an exotic topic by any means, but it’s an important topic,” says Kyte, noting that the suggestions could improve efficiency and provide departments with structure to ensure consistency in management.
His project was one of the most academically strong MBA major projects manager Don Caplan has seen at Royal Roads. “Each successive time we looked at it we just thought this was way beyond and above what we expect at a master’s level,” Caplan says. “It was like a doctoral thesis.”
When Caplan noted this to Kyte, his simple response was that was how he did things. His parents taught him if he was going to do something, he should do it right, Kyte notes. His classmates would no doubt agree that he asked a lot of questions, he says, noting he was at Royal Roads to get the most out of the experience.
It’s a gusto he takes to all aspects of his life, from work, to family and community obligations. Prior to doing his MBA, Kyte was averaging 40 charity speaking engagements a year. He also spoke for corporate events as a member of the National Speakers Bureau. He shares his experiences in teamwork, motivation and leadership. There is an strong focus on the need to be able to adapt to change in his messages, a skill Kyte has honed throughout his life and career.
People need to make their own opportunities, he says, whether that be in the classroom, life or in work.
“God – whoever yours might be – put you on earth with a skill set. Not everyone has an equal skill set but it’s up to you to do the best you can with what you are given,” Kyte says. “Perseverance, effort, hard work and sweat will overcome any shortfall in skill.”
The experience at Royal Roads not only granted him the tools to do his job better, but it provided insight into how effective online learning can be. The two years in program were an exercise in “ruthless triage,” he says, noting it demanded a lot of attention and commitment. That meant prioritizing family, school and work and in this case modelling excellent study habits for his twin boys who just started university.
“Being a professional athlete has opened doors for me but it’s up to me to kick the door open,” Kyte says. “I am brain injured. I’m deaf. I have a few things to overcome, but I read the paper every morning and I kiss the ground because I feel lucky to have what I have.”