Not everyone can envision their career path from childhood.
Theresa Feaster knew exactly where she wanted to be, and she had a blueprint of how to get there.
She’s not an NHL general manager yet, but at age 28, she’s carving her own path, and that latest step is with Team USA at the World Junior Championship.
“Growing up I wanted to be like my dad,” said Feaster, whose father Jay Feaster was a GM with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames. “Watching him and emulating him I think was something I saw that I really enjoyed and I think that’s where it stemmed from.”
Feaster’s path began early with Providence, where she’s now the director of hockey operations. Now 28, Feaster was a student volunteer for the Friars as a junior when they won a national title in 2015, and head coach Nate Leaman kept her around as a graduate assistant.
Through her rise in the ranks, all the way to Edmonton with Team USA, he’s been her biggest advocate, and with good reason; she’s aided his success with Providence, and he suspects it will be the same with Team USA.
“She’s been great in every area,” said Leaman, who is the head coach for the Americans. “Whether it’s the video or academic affairs, I would say all of that. When there’s analytics, all of it’s very good.”
Leaman offered Feaster a full-time role in 2016, and she’s now one of two women heading a men’s hockey department in the country, along with Kelsey Harbison in Denver.
She does a little bit of everything with Providence, but her favorite part is breaking down video, where she’s made a difference in the program.
“She really knows the ropes,” said Leaman. “She’s not just breaking the game down by, you can break clips down by like, this is the forecheck and the neutral zone, she could do that but she also has a good feel for the game as far as the big things that a coach needs to see during a game.”
Feaster said that love for the film end of hockey began as a kid when she was watching VHS hockey tapes with her dad and they would do so for “hours.” That was one of the big elements that drew her into the sport.
“You can watch it and know it’s objective,” she said. “It’s all right there in front of you. Being able to break it down and hopefully make you better, I just really enjoyed diving in and getting lost in the video.”
Her skills breaking down that film is why Leaman knew he wanted Feaster on his staff in Edmonton, where she’s already gotten to work breaking down practices with a strong appreciation for working with some of the best young talent in the country.
“You just see how great these players are,” she said. “Everything’s first class and it’s really amazing to see what a great product the hockey is.”
That’s something Feaster will have to get used to in her journey to the NHL, something Leaman has unwavering confidence can happen for her.
Having a connection to the game since a child is certainly an advantage, but if and when Feaster makes it to the highest level of men’s hockey, it’ll be from her work ethic.
“You have to be very bright (to be a GM),” he said. “You have to make extremely sound decisions through experience, and I think she has the attributes to do those things. She’s been around the game long enough and she’s getting around the game enough that she’ll be able to evaluate, so I don’t think there’s any reason she couldn’t fulfill that dream.”
That first step started in Providence when Leaman saw how much Feaster helped en route to the Friars title half a decade ago and it continues thousands of miles away as Team USA prepares for making a title run of their own.
Her experience can only help the Friars as well, Leaman thinks.
“I would imagine as this elevates players it also elevates coaches,” he said. “So I don’t know why it wouldn’t elevate Theresa. I was just having a conversation with her about our Providence team and comparing it to the World Juniors, and, yeah, I think this will help her, too.”
Feaster said she hasn’t spent too much time worrying about what’s next aside from getting back on campus to help Providence with the next half of its regular season in Hockey East.
Long term, though, she’s dreaming big, and she has every reason to.
“It’s important for me to take things one day at a time,” she said. “You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. That’s the way I try to look at it. I’m just trying to help Team USA and help Providence to win a national title.”