In its effort to continue to empower females through sport, the NHL this year is participating for the first time in the Global Sports Mentoring Program, a joint venture started two years ago between the U.S. State Department, espnW and the University of Tennessee.
After being matched up with a young participant in the program, the League welcomed Eliza Eliasz, a project coordinator and instructor with the Polish Foundation for Sport and Culture.
The trip did more than just allow Eliasz, a 27-year-old snowboarding and kiteboarding instructor from Poland, to visit the United States for the first time. Of the four weeks she will be in the United States for the program, Eliasz will spend three weeks working in the NHL's offices, immersing herself in the League's day-to-day functions by shadowing employees in numerous departments, including digital, social media, communications and marketing.
Global Sports Mentoring Program participant Eliza Eliasz (right) attends her first NHL game with fellow program participant, Anna Cecilia Lopez. (Photo: Tina Jain/NHL)
"I have many very nice meetings every day. In my free time, I also like getting to know more about the NHL. We were at the match at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was a really great experience," said Eliasz, who admits that, living in New York, she occasionally misses the watersports in her hometown of Szczecin, Poland. "I'm missing nature, so when I can I try to see the water here."
Eliasz expects to be back on the water when she returns to her native Poland. But that's far from the only thing she has planned. Thanks to a grant awarded by the Polish government and European Union, she has plans to build and launch a sports website that, while looking to empower women, will also focus on bringing people together through sport. The site will look to provide a calendar of local sporting events as well as forums where instructors, parents and children can come together.
Eliasz's hope is that her interactions at the NHL, not to mention the skills she is learning, will serve her well when she returns home. Not just in building her new online venture, but also in empowering young women in her hometown through her love for water sports.
"Overall we've been thrilled with the program. When we got engaged, we thought this would be great for us to share the resources of the NHL. One of the nice byproducts is how much she has brought to us," said Susan Cohig, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing, who is also serving as Eliasz's mentor during her time with the League. "Organizationally, as we look at what we've done to help the growth of women's hockey, this is a natural extension of the priorities we have to engage women in our game."
As the program winds down, Eliasz will attend a State Department luncheon along with League employees, who will present the work they’ve done through the program. And based on the positive feedback, and more than a few smiles from all parties, it's a program the League will likely continue to be engaged in.
"We know now a lot more, having been through it," Cohig told NHL.com. "Senior management approval assured, I think this is something we should do again."