Alumni Profile • Mindy Viel Sutton '99
Advocating hockey

Mindy Viel SuttonShe won't be there to watch, but when the U.S. men's and women's hockey teams skate onto the ice at the Olympic Ice Area in Torino, Italy, in February, Mindy Viel Sutton '99 will know she helped get them there.

Sutton doesn't play hockey herself and has only lately begun watching the sport in earnest. Her support of the sport is an off-the-ice endeavor, working with corporations such as Nike, United Airlines, Hilton Hotels and Wal-Mart. She is an attorney and manager of marketing for USA Hockey, the national governing body of hockey in the United States .

"People know about the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and that it's in charge of teams at the Olympics," she said, "but most don't know that there's a national governing body sanctioned by the USOC to be in charge of all aspects of the sport all the rest of the time." It's USA Hockey, she explained, that develops and trains all U.S. hockey teams - including the Olympic teams - for international competitions every year.

While the national teams are its public showpieces, USA Hockey devotes most of its energy and resources to encouraging grassroots hockey: Learn to Skate programs and leagues for boys, girls and adults in cities big and small all over the country. The organization counts more than 600,000 players, coaches and officials as members.

"Our goal is to better the lives of kids through this sport," Sutton said. "More kids get involved and get better competition and better instruction because there is a national governing body overseeing the sport."

USA Hockey is a nonprofit organization, and while members pay dues, most of the funds needed for its programs and tournaments come from corporate sponsors. That's where Sutton steps in. As manager of marketing and licensing, she helps court and sign sponsors, negotiates and writes their contracts, and then services the contracts, ensuring that each sponsor receives what it has been guaranteed. That calls for attention to minute detail, from specifying exactly how the USA Hockey logo may be used at rinks or on T-shirts to counting the number of mentions given to a sponsor over the public address system during a game.

Mindy Sutton doesn't mind the minutiae. In fact, she'll tell you she loves the details. To her, these are the minutiae that make things happen. In her overseer role she'll travel to six matches this fall and winter, each on the 11-city U.S. tour the women's national team will take leading up to the Olympics. She'll know that her work to acquire and keep corporate sponsors has made the tour possible and has brought fans to the stands. And that young fans, because of her work, have more and better opportunities to try the sport for themselves.

"I love helping our teams, especially the women's teams. The players are moms and students and career women, and they've worked all their lives to make a national hockey team. When I go to a game and see them signing the jerseys of little girls, their fans, that makes it all worthwhile."