The news that former Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis will instruct a sports law course in the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Law in the spring of 2016 earned mixed reviews this week.
Despite putting the perfect touches on the 2010-11 Canucks roster that came within a win of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup championship, some locals are smirking on social media that the former GM will be in town for part of the spring semester.
The course description says, “the primary focus of this course will be on the operation of sports leagues and the legal and business relationships between leagues, teams, players, agents and unions … students have the option of … participating in a mock salary arbitration.”
For good or bad as the Canucks general manager, it’s a coup for the UVic law program.
Sure, being the Canucks GM and earning more money than most means you willingly accept being a public target.
Gillis has been through the trials and tribulations of the NHL – easily Canada’s most over-analyzed, over-hyped sport, and one whose personalties are often portrayed unfairly. He enjoyed the ups, and suffered the downs, of the scrutinizing Vancouver hockey media.
His decision to teach in UVic Law shows a continued willingness to learn. And hockey fans in Greater Victoria don’t need to study law to learn from him.
The response from some local Canuck fans – which we should assume is typical – is a hangover of criticism for his handling of a few trades before he was fired from the Canucks in 2014. But Gillis is also just a few cracked bones and torn ligaments from being hailed forever as the architect of a Stanley Cup champion. During that fateful 2010-11 season as GM he put the right roster together, only to suffer a similar fate as other GMs, watching his team crumble as key players failed to perform due to injury.
He showed a brash will and a true understanding of the league.
And for that, UVic should be lauded to have him. Whether or not he owes the Greater Victoria hockey community an opportunity to connect with him, perhaps through a charity or youth-oriented event, is another topic for debate.
But he should certainly be welcomed as a lawyer having one of the most rare and unique Canadian experiences.