Laredo Bucks President Donald Thomson has parted ways with the hockey team after five years of working for the franchise.
Glenn Hart, minority owner and team founder, said there are no immediate plans to hire a replacement for Thomson. Thomson’s duties will be divided between his former subordinates and general manager Nicole Kupaks.
Thomson’s departure is amiable. He notified team ownership of his intentions one month ago.
“I’ve been thinking for a while that maybe there’s something else out there for me,” he said. “I’ve been putting it in for five years and have enjoyed it and gotten a lot out of it, but I feel God’s guiding me to find something else.”
Thomson leaves behind a legacy of strong leadership in the face of tough decisions. In his four years as vice president of corporate sales, the Bucks always ranked near the top of the Central Hockey League in corporate sales and sponsorships.
His greatest challenge, however, came one year ago, when he was promoted to team president at a time when profit margins were in the red and the financial viability of the program was in jeopardy.
“At times, it was tough down here, but I feel those tough times molded me,” he said. “The challenge was not only trying to make more money but seeing how we could save on cost. We’ve always been well above average in the league in terms of sales. It was our expenses that were hindering us, and we got that well under control.
“(The Bucks) are in a good situation now. We brought our expenses well down and are close to that break-even point and moving on from there.”
A 2005 graduate of Texas A&M, Thomson intrigued then-majority owner Hart the day they first met, nearly a decade ago.
“I was asked to speak at a graduate-level class at A&M in sports management and Donald was in that class,” Hart said. “After the class was over with, the teacher said, ‘This kid Donald Thomson is a sharp guy who’s interned for the Astros, and you should consider hiring him.’ So Donald stayed after class and we talked a long time and I was impressed. He was more mature and personable beyond his age.”
It wasn’t long before Hart took that teacher’s advice and made Thomson a part of the Bucks’ sales team.
Thomson plans to spend the next few months seeing the world and exploring his options.
Kupaks, the general manager, empathized with Thomson’s desire to “recharge the batteries.”
“Our job is very stressful, and sometimes you just have to walk away from sports itself,” she said. “People who don’t live in the sports life, it’s hard to understand the day-to-day grind involved in being part of the sports industry. He’s leaving on his own. We wish him nothing but the best; he’s been a valuable part of the organization, and we’ll always hold him in high regards.”
Thomson won’t be leaving Laredo empty-handed. He leaves enriched by the experiences and relationships he built and cherishes after half a decade in the Gateway City.
“Our corporate partners and sponsors are like true friends and family to me,” he said. “Those relationships and friendships and the work experience can translate anywhere else. If I can sell hockey in Laredo, then I can sell football for the Houston Texans.
“I could see myself coming back to Laredo; this culture was a fit for me. The people and relationships you get down here are second to none, and that’s the toughest thing to leave behind.”