Connecting fans to their passion

Oilers Entertainment Group COO Darryl Boessenkool is a hometown boy with big dreams

Donna McKinnon - 14 February 2017

Edmonton has always been home to Darryl Boessenkool. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Oilers Entertainment Group says the hard working and community-minded character of the city where he was born and raised defines who he is as a person, and as a businessman. The self-described "macro guy" is a big picture thinker who is passionate about bringing the world to Edmonton - and bringing Edmonton to the world.

Boessenkool didn't have a specific plan when he graduated from UAlberta Economics in 1987, but the diversity of his career path speaks to his ability to seek opportunity in every situation. When he joined the Oilers hockey organization 20 years ago, he had already worked in accounting and had also operated his own business. But with sports "in his DNA," Boessenkool's abilities and interests came into alignment.

"I started off as the controller, more finance," he says. "Since then, I've had so many different responsibilities - from HR to IT, to business development, facility operations and strategic planning. I've had an incredible array of experiences in the last 20 years, and the most fulfilling thing is that I haven't had just one position."

As COO and Chief Financial Officer of the Oilers Entertainment Group, Boessenkool oversees the hockey teams (Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oil Kings, Bakersfield Condors), Rogers Place and associated sports and entertainment enterprises, ensuring that they are operating efficiently and on strategy. It's about "connecting fans to their passion," says Boessenkool, adding that the sports and entertainment business is not just a job, but a lifestyle. And occasionally, the line between a professional and personal life is blurred - but happily so.

"It's not for everybody," he laughs, "but for those driven by the event business, it's exciting. The days can be long, but they're good long, and I have a great team!"

With aspirations to build the company into a global sports and entertainment leader, Boessenkool credits his economics background with giving him the tools to think strategically, to manage multiple variables and, perhaps most importantly, to embrace change.

"The challenge is that we're growing really fast," he says. "We've gone from 125 employees two or three years ago to almost 1,600 people. There will be 4,000 people working in Ice District once it's up and running. We're going to have four million visitors come through Ice District and Rogers Place downtown every year. When you're growing that fast, keeping up a positive culture is both a challenge and an opportunity. The HR part of it, the recruiting, it's a lot of work, but we keep bringing in great people and that keeps me energized."

Boessenkool is also deeply involved in the community, serving as the treasurer of theEdmonton Oilers Community Foundation and board member of theMake-A-Wish Foundation for Northern Alberta, and is involved in other professional and personal charitable activities. With the building of Rogers Place and the development of the multi-facility Ice District in downtown Edmonton, Boessenkool has partnered with local community groups and other downtown stakeholders to build relationships and identify and hopefully mitigate the potential growing pains that such a large project could engender. "That's what makes Edmonton so special," he says. "People are very invested in the community. My kids are invested, my wife. It's what I love about Edmonton and what keeps me here."

As a kid playing hockey and baseball, to the COO of a global sports and entertainment business,Boessenkool is amazed at how the pieces, seemingly unrelated at the time, have connected.

"I love the industry I'm in, the people I work with, the company I'm working for," he says. "I think it's absolutely fantastic what we're doing here in Edmonton. I am very, very proud that personally, I get to be involved in this project. My success is defined by making sure that I have personal fulfilment and professional fulfilment - and my education, my background and my training has led me here."

Darryl will join a panel of fellow UAlberta economics alumni at the Careers in Economics Speaker Series Wednesday, March 1 from 4-6:00 p.m., CCIS L1-160. Darryl will be speaking about his career path, challenges and lessons learned - offering advice to students and alumni.

The event is free but attendees must register here.