Multiple gigs keep Gempeler busy in Colorado hockey circles
A typical work week is far from routine for Mike Gempeler.
After all, when you’re the founder/director of the CCM Hockey Showcase, founder/director of the U.S. Junior Development Program (USJDP), co-founder/partner of the 9280 Pond Hockey Tournament and the commissioner of the first-year Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League (RMJHL), it’s definitely not a routine 9-5 job.
Then again, Gempeler wouldn’t be so involved if he didn’t have the ability to manage his time and still devote enough of it to each project. Is the busy schedule Gempeler’s dream job?
“Absolutely – isn’t doing what you love for a living everyone’s dream job?” Gempeler asked with a smile. “I love what I do, but I enjoy the business side of things the most. I learned over the last 20-plus years in the game that the coaching side, while I enjoyed it, wasn’t my passion. My passion is developing and producing programs and events for athletes of all ages. Whether that’s providing a great development program, an elite-level showcase, an amazing hockey experience in Europe, or even just offering guidance to parents, that’s what I enjoy.
“Work doesn’t drag me down and I enjoy what I do. It’s never been an issue for me to get out of bed in the morning. I’m just plugging away and loving life.”
A native of Madison, Wis., and now residing in Evergreen with his wife and two daughters, ages 11 and nine, Gempeler got his feet wet in the hockey world coaching an adult women’s team some 20 years back in Aspen before creating Rocky Mountain Hockey Schools, an entity he sold 12 years ago to Bryan Smith, prior to founding the USJDP.
“The general concept with the USJDP is that we put on very well-run camps, but it’s our incredible coaching staff that makes the difference,” said Gempeler. “We’re talking NCAA coaches, NHL coaches, United States Hockey League coaches and North American Hockey League coaches. I put on the camp and run the business side of the event, but it is these phenomenal coaches, who come from around the country and really, around the world, that run the camp and provide the on-ice instruction. Working with these types of coaches really opened my eyes and is what started me down the admin path, the business side of hockey, if you will.”
Yes, Gempeler has his hands in many projects, but he explained how it’s never overwhelmed him at all.
“There is no such thing as a typical day because of the seasonal nature of all my businesses,” said Gempeler. “It’s not like I do nothing but marketing every February, or update websites every March. It’s all cyclical – our 9280 Pond Hockey event just ended, so I’ll slow down a bit on that and turn my attention to the next event on the calendar, which in this case is the CCM Showcase. There are new challenges and new activities every day – there is no such thing as the same day over and over.”
Amazingly enough, Gempeler finds time to step away from work and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer outside of hockey.
“I will do anything and everything outdoors,” said Gempeler. “My two biggest passions are skiing and mountain biking, but I also enjoy fishing, hiking and camping as well. I go down the list of outdoor pursuits, but mountain biking is definitely at the top of it.”
On the work end of the spectrum, Gempeler can’t see himself in any other business. He’s already started to lay the groundwork for expansion RMJHL teams next season in Vail and Pueblo.
“One of the challenges I truly enjoy is building programs from scratch,” he said. “That is a ton of fun.”
— Matt Mackinder