Dustin Peltier turns love for hockey into career

Dustin Peltier, right poses with Ken Thomas, director of sports, culture and recreation at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations during the recent Indigenous Culture Celebration Game event.

Wiikwemkoong member works for the Ottawa Senators

OTTAWA—If you pull a young child aside while they skate around a hockey rink and ask what they want to be when they grow up, many will say something related to the great Canadian game, whether on the ice or behind the scenes. With so many sharing that same dream, the ones who succeed have to work tirelessly to become the best of the best.

Dustin Peltier is an example of this in action, as the Wiikwemkoong-raised Ottawa resident is in his third year of working with the Ottawa Senators, where he serves as an account manager.

“(Professional sports administration) is an area that a lot of people from the Manitoulin community don’t know is possible or available. For us, it seems professional sports are so far out of the way and out of our possibilities. But as long as you work really hard towards it, there’s lots of avenues and ways to get there,” said Mr. Peltier.

Sports of all kinds have always been a significant portion of Mr. Peltier’s life.

“Growing up in Wiiky, hockey was a big focal point here. It’s an outlet, something I’ve just revolved my life around. I knew I wanted to be involved in the game in some shape or form,” said Mr. Peltier.

After high school, his interest in business and marketing led him to enroll at Ottawa’s Algonquin College for business marketing.

There, he learned about event planning, marketing and media plans. He also gained opportunities for contract jobs within his field that gave him hands-on education.

He began with Wikwemikong Tourism for a few summers in a role that saw him co-ordinating and promoting events. Wikwemikong Tourism manager Luke Wassegijig said fresh-from-school Mr. Peltier was a great team member.

“He came with a positive attitude. He was a real go-getter and helped bring some life into the organization. He brought some real positive energy,” said Mr. Wassegijig.

Mr. Peltier has worked on experiential tourism, creatively packaging and marketing those offerings to consumers. He also took on a major role in organizing a fishing derby.

“There’s very few times when people come into your life and bring that much energy and that positivity, and you know they’re going to do great things. He’s one of those people; he’s got that drive,” said Mr. Wassegijig.

From Wikwemikong Tourism, he moved into a marketing role with Rainbow Ridge Golf Course, overseen by John Dubé. There, Mr. Peltier ensured that members of the golf course were satisfied with the service and offerings they received as club members. He also managed its social media, organized tournaments and secured sponsorships for those events.

“He created a customer experience at Rainbow Ridge that was pretty exceptional,” said Mr. Dubé. “A lot of stuff he put in place in the two years he was there, I’m still utilizing myself.”

Mr. Peltier said those two organizations were instrumental in his career.

“Those two guys are very good leaders for not only Wiikwemkoong but for Manitoulin Island as a whole. They are great ambassadors and were very good to me,” he said.

Following his course at Algonquin College, Mr. Peltier wanted to add a degree to his resumé. He wanted to be closer to home and applied to commerce programs at Nipissing and Laurentian universities. Nipissing was the first to make an offer so he accepted it, but a month before the start of the school year Laurentian offered him a spot in its Bachelor of Commerce in sports administration program. Before then, he didn’t even know the course existed.

Through that program Mr. Peltier did a field trip course working with professional sports teams in Washington, D.C. There, he worked on a case study about real-world problems they faced.

At the same time, the Ottawa Senators’ internship program opened up and he got interviews for four positions.

“The one I really wanted I didn’t get, so I took the next best thing. It probably worked out better that way,” said Mr. Peltier.

Instead, he opted for a position with premium client services, meaning corporate clients, box owners and season ticket holders.

“It worked out because I got a lot of experience, met a lot of good people and left a good impression, which led into a full-time position with the team,” he said.

Mr. Peltier is an account manager, overseeing more than 400 businesses and customer accounts and works to ensure they receive the best value for their money. This role is within business development, but Mr. Peltier wishes to someday move into hockey operations. This involves taking care of player needs and planning the make-up of the team.

His marketing and events expertise came forward at the second annual Indigenous Culture Celebration Game on Saturday, December 14.

Mr. Peltier said last year’s event was little more than a ceremonial puck drop and he was determined to make it a true celebration this year.

“I asked the marketing team if I could get involved, since that was my area of expertise. They said yes; they weren’t aware of my marketing background prior to this,” Mr. Peltier said.

He worked with Kevin Eshkawkogan of Indigenous Tourism Ontario and Mr. Wassegijig in his home community to plan the event, and also reached out to several Anishinaabe communities in the Ottawa region.

One hundred people from Wiikwemkoong and other Manitoulin Island First Nations got to attend the game, which featured a smudging ceremony, Mohawk and Algonquin dancers, hoop dancer Theland Kicknosway and Whitefish River First Nation’s Mary Nahwegahbow singing the Canadian National Anthem in English, French and Anishinaabemowin. Wiikwemkoong’s Steven Trudeau created the art for the promotional poster.

Many of the attendees were young kids who had never been to an NHL game before. Community organizations such as Wiikwemkoong Chase the Ace helped to sponsor the trips for many of those young people.

At this point, Mr. Peltier said he remains determined to transition into hockey operations. He has experience with major junior hockey teams, such as his current role as a scout for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and a past scouting position with the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League.

“In my experience, it takes a lot of luck. I’m just hoping that maybe I’ll run into the right people, make the right connections and get where I want to be,” said Mr. Peltier.

Wiikwemkoong remains an important part of Mr. Peltier’s journey and he credits his success to his parents and the family, friends and community members who have supported him through the years.

Mr. Peltier has now taken on a mentorship role himself. His cousin has just begun his studies in the same sports administration program and Mr. Peltier said he wanted to support young people especially while they pursue their own goals.

“By all means, whether it’s students or youth with questions, I’m more than happy to answer, and happy to support them on their journey,” he said, and invited anyone to reach out to him.

Both Mr. Dubé and Mr. Wassegijig said they were proud to see the excellent work Mr. Peltier continues to do.