St. Catharines lawyer elected to Hockey Canada board
Leanne Standryk has always loved sports.
In fact, one of the 49-year-old Niagara Falls native’s first memories are of being on skis, barely able to walk.
“My mom had put a pair of plastic Canadian Tire skis on my feet and I was walking about the base of the hill with my mom while my siblings skied,” she said. “I can’t remember a time where sport was not a part of my life. All of my siblings and my mom all ski and I skied competitively for a period.
“It’s second nature. It’s always been in our life.”
Standryk’s love of sports carried over to her work life where she is a senior partner at the St. Catharines law firm Lancaster, Brooks & Welch, and lists sports law as one of her areas of expertise.
Standryk was asked to sit on the local organizing committee for Hockey Canada’s Foundation annual Gala and Golf event fundraiser which was scheduled for June 2020 in Niagara Falls.
Through the connections Standryk made as a volunteer on that committee she became aware of the Hockey Canada directive regarding diversity and the amendment to the bylaw that required the Board Hockey Canada to have a minimum of two male and two female members to better reflect Canadian society. From those connections Standryk was advised that she would be a great candidate for the Hockey Canada Board of Directors and what followed was an endorsement by the Ontario Hockey Federation of her as a candidate to the Board of Hockey Canada, in October.
Her appointment to the Board was confirmed at Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting earlier this month. Standryk was introduced as one of three women selected to serve a two-year term.
“My reaction to hearing my name was pure excitement, and of course honour,” she said. “In that moment when I heard my name I was excited and thankful, and for once, I was completely speechless. I’m still having some difficulty finding the perfect words to convey the honour of this responsibility entrusted to me by the Membership of Hockey Canada.
“I certainly did not count on it happening. It wasn’t something I expected to happen.”
In her position, along with other Directors, Standryk will be called upon to focus on accountability to the Membership, ensuring legal compliance, oversight of the strategic direction and priorities of the organization.
“You are certainly not involved in the operational aspects of the organization at all,” she said. “It is focusing on the strategic priorities short and long term, including the objective of diversity and inclusion while growing the game”
Standryk can’t emphasize enough the significance of diversity and inclusivity in sport.
“I think it’s extremely important. We know that through diversity and inclusivity that we generate greater points of view and that affords a deeper level of discussion and awareness of issues and perspectives at the table,” said Standryk, who lives in St. Catharines with her husband, lawyer Bruce Macdonald.
Standryk has only been on the Board a couple of weeks but has already been active in her new role and had her first board orientation session.
“We have hit the ground running,” she said. “It’s very exciting times.”
Standryk, who attended Saint Paul and graduated from Westlane, loves her work in sports law.
“It’s become quite a large part of my practice. I represent a number of National, Provincial and grass root organizations,” she said. “The nature of the advice that I am called upon to provide clients in my sports law practice includes response to issues such as employment law concerns, governance, athlete selection, athlete maltreatment, and the safe return to sport in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I decided sport law was something that might be an interest it was because sport had always been part of my life.”
Standryk was fresh out of having earned a degree in law from the University of Western Ontario when she approached well known sports lawyer Gord Kirke for some advice.
“We met for over an hour and talked about the opportunities in sport law for women. I remember him saying that to develop a practice in that niche area would be a tough go for anyone, regardless of gender, but certainly for a female,” she said. “He was gracious with his time and gave me sound advice that it was about having a firm command and understanding of the law, providing quality advice based on an understanding of client needs but equally important, was building relationships, and working to establish trust in those relationships. Not only with your client but with colleagues, opposing counsel and others in the industry. This is true of building a practice in any discipline and mirrors the advice that I have been provided by other mentors”
Standryk listened to Kirke and turned her focus to involvement in the industry through volunteerism and building trusted and lasting relationships which also lead to the opportunity to become a guest lecturer in the sport management program at Brock which segued into an opportunity to teach the sports law course when the then-professor was on sabbatical. “I am certainly grateful for the mentorship and encouragement that I have received and continue to receive throughout my years of practice”.
“I look forward to working with Hockey Canada over the next two years and getting to know my new colleagues, with a shared strategic vision to grow the game and create a safe and inclusive environment.”
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