The Arizona Coyotes named John Chayka, HBA’14, as the organization’s new general manager at a news conference this afternoon. The 26-year-old Chayka is the youngest GM in NHL history.
“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Chayka said. “We are excited about the challenge ahead and focused on taking our team to the next level. We have a great core of players and prospects here and a very bright future ahead of us.”
Chayka joined the Coyotes last season as assistant general manager/analytics. He was involved in all areas of hockey operations including NHL, minor league and amateur player evaluation, as well as player development and coaching support.
The native of Jordan Station, Ont., earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Ivey Business School in 2014. He was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League, but committed to going to university instead. He played Junior A hockey in Canada and was a top scorer in the Maritime Junior A League.
When a back injury ended his hockey career, he opened a hockey school to help players improve their performance, showing them video footage of moves they might want to incorporate. To drive home the importance of the moves, he gathered statistics to show how the moves had helped other players to develop their game.
From that idea, he co-founded Stathletes Inc. with his sister, Meghan, and Neil Lane, MBA’11, in 2009, before he attended Ivey. He was 19 at the time. Stathletes, based in St. Catharines, Ont., provides in-depth statistics on hockey players’ performances to help hockey’s decision-makers ensure they have an optimal mix of talent on their teams and to train their players.
Lane whipped the business into shape through Ivey’s New Venture Project (NVP) and mentorship from Ivey lecturer Dave Simpson, MBA ’88, Director of Ivey’s Business Families Centre and also a former OHL player.
While Lane was at Ivey and Chayka was an Ivey Advanced Entry Opportunity (AEO) student at Western, they tied for first place and won $10,000 for Stathletes in the 2011 Cardinal Challenge Business Plan Competition in Louisville, Ky. Lane, Chayka and other Stathletes team members also represented Ivey/Western and won an award at the Venture Labs Investment Competition (formerly MOOT Corp. Competition) in Austin, Texas.
Chayka credits his Ivey education, particularly courses in Finance or Decision Making with Analytics, for helping him to build Stathletes into a successful business.
“All of the Ivey courses helped in some way. Learning how to think strategically was important,” he said in a 2015 interview. “Learning to quantitatively and qualitatively assess any kind of vision was helpful.”
His work with Stathletes helped him to make an impression on and build relationships with NHL decision-makers, which in turn led to him signing with the Coyotes. He was providing hockey analytics consulting to NHL teams even while in the HBA program. Although Chayka left Stathletes to work with the Coyotes, the business will continue under Lane’s leadership.
“Applying analytics to sports is something that started with baseball, but it’s no longer in its infancy. We’re now pretty far down the road in terms of what you can do to apply numbers to decision-making,” he said. “Any time you need to make a decision, the more information you can get, the better. You want to understand things at a deeper level.”
At this afternoon’s press conference, Gary Drummond, President of Hockey Operations, expressed his excitement with the hire.
“We’re very pleased to name John as our new general manager,” Drummond said. “John is among the best and brightest minds in hockey. He is knowledgeable and driven and has an incredible passion for the game. He brings an innovative approach to assessing talent and looking at player development and combined with his strong analytics expertise, we feel that he’s the right choice for the direction we want to go with our franchise.”