Any sports fan knows that it isn’t only what happens during a game or race that matters for success. Winning requires a certain blend of talent, strategy, and teamwork. It’s this particular intersection in which Alison Lukan, ’96, a reporter for The Athletic and a Jepson School alumna, is interested. Lukan calls her brand of journalism data-driven storytelling, and it has earned her a reputation as a strong analytical voice in hockey reporting.

“I’m not just breaking down the numbers. I’m comparing the story of what’s happening on the ice to what numbers tell us,” Lukan explains.

Lukan is an anomaly in the world of sports journalism. She is a writer, but her background is in leadership studies and she spent over two decades in management consulting before taking a leap of faith to make writing about hockey her full-time job.

“Covering sports and digging into stories there, digging into the whys, the hows, not just of the game, but my slant, the interpersonal side of it, that’s just what turns on my switch and gets me really motivated to do more,” Lukan says.

Using the lens of leadership studies, Lukan has profiled hockey players, coaches, and fans. Last year, she authored a three-part story on the leadership style of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, a two-time recipient of the award for the NHL’s top coach and a Stanley Cup winner.

“This is a man who is known for being extremely fiery in his temperament, very outgoing and gregarious, very demonstrative,” Lukan says. “In that I saw a lot of the use of conflict, but in my perspective and from the work I’ve continued to do, using that conflict as the most direct form of communication and driving to honesty and being able to drive to results without having to put a lot of work into getting to direct communication.”

Lukan’s reporting uses leadership studies concepts like communication and group dynamics to make predictions and analyze teams. Lukan sees a need for both these “intangible” skills as well as analysis of technical skills to understand what is happening on the ice.

“You need to understand the limits of production of a player or a manager or of anyone in any role, but you also need to understand cultural fit,” Lukan says. “You need to understand motivational factors for any individual to make sure you’re helping them be the best that they can be.”

Lukan recalls a profile on Artemi Panarin, who joined the Blue Jackets as left wing in 2017.

“He was just such a revelation and the skill that he brings to the game,” Lukan says.

Lukan created an analytical breakdown of Panarin’s plays, but also pulled in video clips to explore what those numbers mean in action on the ice.

With the hockey season already underway, Lukan is in full swing with new episodes of the podcast Front & Nationwide and new stories. Lukan describes the in-season pace as a marathon but lots of fun.

“I think that it’s a testament to what Jepson is doing that even here I am many years later,” Lukan says.

Photo courtesy of Alison Lukan, ’96