The Trinity Reporter Winter 2005
ice vision
Bryant McBride '88

"I didn't realize it early in my career, but I just love to create something from nothing."

By Steve Veshosky
Photographs by Stanley Rowin

  Bryant McBride

Bryant McBride likes to build things from scratch, whether it involves taking advantage of an unconventional business opportunity or opening an ice hockey rink in an inner-city neighborhood. As the president and CEO of Vision Sports and Entertainment Partners, a sports marketing firm with offices in Boston and new York, McBride is an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word. “I didn’t realize it early in my career, but I just love creating something from nothing," he explains. “That’s the challenge, and the fun, of life. My greatest reward is bringing an idea from the drawing board, or the computer screen, to fruition. That feeling never gets old." McBride, who recently ran his 18th marathon, has been making things happen for most of his life.

“I knew if I stuck with it I could do it."
McBride spent his first five years in a tough Chicago neighborhood, until his mother remarried and the family moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. "I was already way behind most of the other kids in playing hockey when I got there," he says. "I was just learning to skate and they already had hockey skills. I had a lot of catching up to do, but I knew if I stuck with it I could do it. And I did." McBride, who along with his wife, Tina, now has a six-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter of his own, fondly remembers skating home in the dark on icy roads, hockey stick in hand, for a quick supper before heading right back out to play some more. "My parents put up with a lot of that kind of stuff and never complained. They've always been willing to sacrifice to help me succeed—I owe them everything." Hockey is more than mere sport in Canada—where practically every kid dreams of suiting up as a professional-it's a national obsession. While he might not have been quite as good as the kids he played with in Sault Ste. Marie who ended up in the National Hockey League (NHL), McBride figured his considerable skills on the ice could at least get him to college. He was right about that.

"My parents put a lot of emphasis on education."
While playing in a high school all-star game, McBride was approached by a recruiter from West Point; because he was an American by birth and had good grades, he was offered an opportunity to become a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy. It was an experience that he treasures. "I very much wanted to go to school in the U.S.," he says. "We lived right on the border of Michigan, and I remember hearing Keith Jackson call Michigan football games. I loved it. Plus my parents put a lot of emphasis on education, and I wanted to see if hockey could help pay for college." After approximately a year and a half at the academy, however, he came to the realization that he didn't want a career in the army. Despite being named the best new cadet in Cadet Basic Training at West Point in 1985 and being elected class president, the first minority student to be so honored, McBride decided to move on.

He spent several months picking apples on a farm in Vermont, where he "demilitarized" before enrolling at Trinity. He subsequently led the Bantams to three straight Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Hockey

Championships and was named All-NESCAC as a senior. He was also the first student of color to be elected class president at Trinity. He went on to earn a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in 1991. "I really didn't even know what a liberal arts college was," he says with a laugh, "but I fell in love with Trinity as soon as I got there. I was able to get an incredible education, and I played hockey with a great bunch of guys, many of whom I still keep in touch with regularly. I can honestly say that I use the skills I learned at Trinity every day in the normal course of doing business."

Founded in 2001, Vision Sports and Entertainment Partners represents major corporate clients such as United Technologies, Kraft Foods,

Sunkist, Snickers, Spalding, Upper Deck Trading Cards, The Hartford, and the Choice Hotels chain. Through a variety of sports-related marketing initiatives, including strategies intended to appeal to family decision-makers through organized youth sports programs, McBride and his staff work to improve their clients' profits and position in the marketplace. The firm has also represented several NHL players. Prior to starting Vision, McBride was senior vice president for My, a company that allowed parents with children involved in sports to buy equipment, register for leagues, and coordinate travel arrangements online. My team founder Elliot Katzman, whose son, Matt, is a senior at Trinity, is a member of the College's Board of Fellows. "As soon as I met Bryant, I knew he was an individual I wanted as a partner," says Katzman. "He has that rare combination of qualities-leadership, integrity, creativity, passion-I could go on. He is one of the most genuine individuals I've ever met. I feel very privileged to have him as a close friend."

Giving more kids a chance to get into the game
One thing that McBride is passionate about is spreading the game of hockey to kids in parts of America that otherwise might not have access to it. From 1993 to 1999, as the NHL's vice president of new business development, he oversaw the league's community ice and in-line rink initiatives, its international professional league development, and founded the NHL/USA Hockey Task Force for Diversity in Hockey. Through his successful lobbying of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, McBride raised money to build ice and in-line hockey rinks in cities across America. Within four years, the project grew from four to 36 programs. He also went out of his way to locate Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL. McBride hired O'Ree, who was working at a hotel in San Diego, to head up the diversity task force.

 It is to the College's advantage that McBride is passionate about the Community Sports Complex (CSC), a Trinity Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA) partnership project currently under construction near the corner of Broad Street and New Britain Avenue on the south side of campus. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2006, the CSC will feature an ice rink that will be home to the men's and women's hockey teams, a rock climbing wall, a community fitness center, and community meeting rooms. While serving as a combination of technical adviser and cheerleader for the CSC, McBride has mustered his considerable resources, financial and otherwise, to help ensure that the project will be a success.

 "The College and the neighborhood both needed this to happen," he says. "They deserve it. The Community Sports Complex will be a great resource for the people in the neighborhood to have access to something that wasn't available to them before. And it will obviously be great for Trinity-for the teams, the students, everybody. And it's another example of the College doing its part in Hartford. I'm just happy that I was able to help. I can't wait to walk into that building when it opens-what a great day that's going to be."


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