The Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) is very proud to announce the election of its first ever independent Board of Directors.

After an extensive yearlong commitment to changing its board make up, regulations and bylaws, the CSSHL has elected its first ever independent and diverse Board of Directors.

The CSSHL has taken the step away from a traditional hockey board structure by establishing and electing an independent seven-person Board of Directors. These directors have no association or ties with current CSSHL programs and have various skills sets such as finance, risk/insurance, expansion, governance, and marketing/sponsorships to help provide the CSSHL with a variety of skills and tools.

Andy Oakes who has served as the Chairperson of the CSSHL since 2013 stated “with the landscape of hockey changing, the CSSHL sought to be proactive leaders in the new hockey market place. As leaders in education-based hockey it was critical that our member organizations put in a transparent and independent governance model so the league can grow and lead education-based hockey in North America.  I personally want to thank all of the CSSHL members for having the courage to move to an independent governance model moving away from the traditional member operated governance model.  We are very fortunate to have had such significant interest in our board positions and we are very thankful to the seven directors who have been elected to lead the CSSHL over the next few years.”

In November 2022 the CSSHL six-member Executive Committee met in Calgary, AB. From there, independent consultant Eric Sorensen, who had a very successful corporate career including Sun Rype and Warner Lambert before moving onto consulting engagements which included various hockey governance projects, was contracted to begin the process of establishing a Three-Year Plan for the CSSHL, which included the creation of the independent Board of Directors.

Sorensen spent several months examining the CSSHL, and interviewing all CSSHL members and employees to build a new structure that will help the organization adjust to the quickly changing hockey landscape, and continue to uphold their mission statement “To be National Leaders in Education-Based Hockey.” Sorensen presented the projects initial findings to all CSSHL member programs at the semi-annual meeting in January 2023, and the final report and recommendations at the AGM in April 2023.

“It was inspiring to see the interest level from our CSSHL members in wanting to implement the new independent board,” added CSSHL COO Kevin Goodwin. “We are excited to continue our path forward with such an experienced and diverse group.  Their successes and knowledge will continue to guide us as we support education-based hockey across North America.”

On June 1, 2023 the CSSHL announced it had voted unanimously in favour to make changes to the CSSHL Governance Structure and Bylaws. The current CSSHL Executive Committee continued to operate in its current capacity until the new independent board was set in place.

On August 9, 2023 the CSSHL put forward a Call for Nominations. 40 candidates put forward their name for a potential seat on the independent Board of Directors. The deadline for applicants was a month later, September 8, 2023.

On October 12, 2023 a final list of candidates was provided to CSSHL members by the CSSHL Nominating Committee (NC), an independent arm’s length group of volunteers with experience across different industries, sports, and organizations supporting this endeavor on behalf of the CSSHL. The NC was committed to recruiting and putting forward a diverse final list of candidates who collectively possessed a wide range of skills and experiences required by the league. The NC undertook a thorough and rigorous process to complete these tasks, including screening and vetting all potential candidates, prior to the elections.

On November 16, 2023 an election was held with the nominees for the Board of Directors being approved unanimously.

“The new independent Board of Directors is a critical enabler to further enhance the CSSHL’s strong governance and will support the continued development of its leading unique education-based hockey positioning,” added Sorensen.

The talented, experienced, and committed group of individuals consists of one Chair and six Directors who will help govern this leading league of hockey academies across Canada and several states in the USA.

“On behalf of the newly elected board, we are very excited to begin working with the CSSHL, an organization that provides motivated and committed athletes with three key building blocks to long-term success that extend far beyond the game:  Education, Hockey Development, and most significantly, Character Development,” added newly elected Chair George Crookshank. “The league provides a life balance for players and their families that allows for academic success, athletic success and a commitment to building the personal character traits and strengths that will define them well into adulthood.”

George Crookshank – Chair

From Vernon, BC, Crookshank is a passionate believer in the strength and integrity of the CSSHL and the importance of its role, both academically and athletically and in the development of young men and women looking to pursue their hockey ambitions. He played junior hockey in BC and then four years on a full scholarship at Minnesota-Duluth (1979-1983), graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Communications and a minor in Psychology. He has 20+ years of minor hockey coaching and hockey school experience. In Crookshank’s professional career, he built a very successful advertising agency (Drum Communications) which was ultimately purchased by a global leading agency Saatchi & Saatchi/Publicis. He has wide ranging business skills enabling him to build great, collaborative teams to get the best out of every member.

Denise Allen – Director

Residing in Baddeck, NS, Allen is the President & CEO of the Food Producers of Canada and the Vice-Chair Board of Governors, Cape Breton University. Denise works collaboratively with government, senior bureaucrats, and regulators to improve Canadian business competitiveness. Her passion and strong sense of community and engagement has her participation sponsor various community development initiatives and charities. Allen is interested in serving the CSSHL Board utilizing her business and governance experience with advocacy for female hockey.

Cass Bruni – Director

Bruni is located out of Calgary, AB and has an educational background that includes a CFA designation, a Law Degree, and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering. Bruni is a former junior hockey player and has attended numerous CSSHL events and showcases as a scout with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League (WHL) over the last seven seasons. Along with his hockey experience, he obtained diverse corporate experience in his current role as an investment banker with RBC Capital Markets, a corporate lawyer with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, and as a Process Engineer with NOVA Chemicals. His collective experiences and education provide him with insights on governing principles, decision making processes, due diligence, and skills on the board required to effectively govern. His time at Blake’s provided him with experience in serving smaller scale private firms and not-for-profits on bylaws, policy, and good governance practices.

David Grout – Director

Located in Vancouver, BC, Grout has over 21 years of experience as a corporate lawyer, first in Calgary at Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer, then as Associate General Counsel with the Alberta Investment Management Corporation in Edmonton. Most recently, in 2021 he became General Counsel of Wesgroup Properties in Vancouver. He served six years on the Board of the Missing Children Society of Canada, a Canadian Not-for-Profit Corporation located in Calgary, and was a co-instructor of Mergers and Acquisitions at the University of Alberta Law School. Grout believes he can provide strong leadership and welcomes the opportunity and challenges that will face the CSSHL’s inaugural Board.

Louise Lalor – Director

Lalor has 20+ years of experience as a CPA in senior finance roles across various industries and has worked closely with external Boards.  Her current role is Controller, Hillside Winery & Bistro.  She also serves as a Director on two boards: one of a privately held winery and the BC Grape Growers Association where she acts as Treasurer. Lalor has a practical and entrepreneurial business approach developed through her experience working in a wide variety of profit and not for profit organizations in North America and Europe. As a Board member, Lalor will lead by being informed, prepared, ethical, connected, and engaged with the CSSHL community.

Jon Neutens – Director

Neutens is currently VP & Head of Agriculture at ATB Financial (formerly Alberta Treasury Branches) overseeing financial planning, strategy, and lending operations. He previously held executive leadership roles at Syngenta and Nufarm, and served on the industry governance boards of CropLife Canada and CleanFarms Canada. Prior to those roles the Cochrane, AB resident founded and owned a successful software business. Neutens is committed to supporting the CSSHL’s Mission of providing a premier platform to nurture young athletes to fulfill their academic and hockey endeavours.

Michael Shouldice – Director

Shouldice has been involved in learning and sport since 2009. He is currently Manager, Partnerships and Collaborations for Athabasca University. While at Athabasca University he has worked with the Western Hockey League, Professional Hockey Players Association, and the CFL Players Association developing and managing education focused partnerships. He has governance experience with Edmonton based minor soccer, where he currently resides, and served as a Board Member and Board Chair of the Canada Place Child Care Society.

The Board will hold five to six meetings per year, conducted virtually and at the discretion of the CSSHL Board Chair, with one in-person meeting to be held in-person in conjunction with the CSSHL Annual or Semi-Annual Meeting.