Blue Jackets Q&A With Director of Legal Affairs Peter Lovins

Welcome back to our 2020 Columbus Blue Jackets Q&A series. In this series, we are going to talk with different members of the Blue Jackets’ community about hockey, their jobs, how they’re handling things today and much more. Today in part five, Director of Legal Affairs Peter Lovins stopped by. We start with a great behind the scenes story and then talk about how they’re trying to prepare for an uncertain future. We then end with a passion of his.

Put yourself in this situation for a moment. Say you are a member of the Blue Jackets’ staff. It’s a Sunday night. The team is hosting a season ticket holder appreciation event. You have lots of responsibilities on the team. But on this night, your task was to be at the event and help out in any way you can.

That’s exactly where Director of Legal Affairs Peter Lovins found himself on a Sunday night in Feb 2018. But this was no ordinary Sunday night. This was the eve of the NHL’s Trade Deadline. So although Lovins was at the event helping out, he could be called into action on a moment’s notice if the team needed him.

On Feb 25, 2018, the team needed Lovins in a big way. This is where the story begins. Let him tell you his story of the night Mark Letestu was traded back to Columbus. You thought the Matt Duchene situation was wild? This one rivals that but not many know the story.

David Savard Mark Letestu Cam Atkinson Blue Jackets
Peter Lovins and his team helped Mark Letestu get to Columbus quickly. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Going Way Above & Beyond

“I happened to be at the arena (on that Sunday night),” Lovins recalled. “I happened to be staffing bubble hockey and then I get a call and text from Josh Flynn saying they were about to do this (acquire Letestu.) They always ask how quickly can you get him? What’s the process? What’s the procedure? What’s it going to take? I stopped my bubble hockey duties and then went back to my desk.”

At this point, I knew Lovins was about to do something magical here. Any time you deal with trades and possible immigration issues, you sometimes have to wait for days. The Blue Jackets had a game on Monday. What could Lovins do?

“We ended up devising the idea that I can prepare the documents on Sunday. We didn’t consider a private jet for this one (unlike Duchene.) The big thing is that you have to have a wet-ink signature. We still had someone fly. They flew commercial from Columbus to Boston on Sunday evening. We then handed it off to a law firm courier who could get it to (St. Albans) Vermont by Monday before noon. Then we work through the same process (as Duchene’s) to try to get it approved by Monday at 5 P.M. We had a less than a 24-hour immigration turnaround. The thing that I’m most proud of about this is comparing it to what other teams have done. First, Letestu scored in that (first) game. That was his only goal with us that season. Duchene scored that same game he was able to play in which he otherwise would not have been able to. So they both scored on this emergency immigration basis on their first game there. In both cases, we had a player approved within 24 hours where the player was able to play. Players from these other teams missed a couple of games. To me that was just a very proud moment of how our team works.”

Lovins is just one piece of this puzzle. There are many behind the scenes to make things like this work. It’s truly a team success story. So the next time you think about a trade and getting a player to the Blue Jackets as quickly as possible, think of Lovins. He and his team are likely working double-time away from the spotlight to make the Blue Jackets look good.

But this is just one tiny part of the job Lovins does for the Blue Jackets.

Wearing Many Hats

Believe it or not, the Blue Jackets’ legal team didn’t always handle immigration issues. This was a newer initiative that the team presented. They asked Lovins if he and his team be willing to learn this aspect. They said yes. The rest is history. It turns out very few NHL teams have their legal department handle immigration.

Outside of that, Lovins handles many things. Among them, he handles what’s called the “transactional legal work.” This involves drafting, negotiating, finalizing and executing contracts. He interprets what a contract may say in the event a question comes up in the future.

Because the Blue Jackets are considered a smaller team, Lovins and his team handle a lot more as an in-house unit than some other teams do. They have to know a little bit about many subjects. But then if a situation gets complex, they will hire an outside lawyer to assist.

Besides contracts, the team handles issues such as employment, worker’s compensation and premise liability just to name a few. Some instances of where premise liability would come into play would be if a fan gets hit with the puck during play or if there’s a fight or a slip and fall incident on Nationwide Arena property. Any liability, lawsuit or insurance claim that comes from that is handled by Lovins. They also handle things with their corporate and broadcast partners, their travel and anything to do with the building itself.

Peter Lovins, Columbus Blue Jackets
Peter Lovins and his team wear many hats for the Blue Jackets. (photo credit: Peter Lovins)

A Typical Day & Beyond

As you can see, the legal team has their hands in a lot of stuff. With everything going on in the current world, we asked Lovins what his typical day is like now and then how are they preparing for a future that is currently unknown with a lot of unanswered questions.

A Typical Day

“For the most part aside from some logistical changes, there’s plenty of work for our legal department. There’s three of us in the department. We have a call once a day to see what everyone is working on to provide any course corrections, redirect work, prioritize things. Other than that, we are chugging along with various assignments and tasks that come up. (There are) some things that are directly caused by Covid-19 and some things that have been on our to-do list. Let’s take this opportunity to review and see if we can make this process better.”

Lovins and his team are not only going through process improvement, they are seeing if other tasks can be completed that they couldn’t get to before. With so much uncertainty in the world right now, it seems that they have some time on their side to get things done. How are they preparing for an eventual return?

The Immediate Future

“We’re trying our best to be prepared as possible for various situations and different plans that are coming out,” Lovins said. “So much of that is happening on the league level. Fortunately, the Blue Jackets aren’t going to make some novel solution to this. Anything that happens every single franchise will be affected if games go into July. Any solution and any hiccups that arise from that I’m certain that the NHL is going to clear that with the Player’s Association. They’ll work on a solution that is mutually agreeable and then all the ancillary issues that come from that (eg salaries, immigration, all the logistics of travel.) The direction is going to come down from on high to get all teams aligned.”

The takeaway from this is that the Blue Jackets will be ready to act, but the NHL and Player’s Association will do most of the work to make sure everyone is ready for an eventual return to hockey. But when needed, the legal team will be prepared to act as things develop.

Lovin’s Passion Away From the Rink

When he is not working on contracts or something else for the Blue Jackets, Lovins is doing plenty in the community to make things better. He is a champion in fighting for more equality especially in the areas of gender equality and the LGBTQ community. He helped co-found a non-profit called the Family Pride Network.

“It’s an organization that connects and supports LGBTQ parents and families,” Lovins said. “There’s many ways families are built these days. There’s not many resources out there helping LGBTQ people navigate what may be the best path for them. We established the Family Pride Network to help people navigate those different journeys to start their family or add to their family. We also wanted to provide a fun social space. We’d host picnics, movie night and family fun events where families could get together and get to know each other.”

The NHL has used the motto “Hockey is for everyone” and “You can play” for some time now trying to convey the message that everyone is welcome no matter their background. We asked Lovins if enough progress was being made in the area of equality from his sight.

“We are making progress,” Lovins said. “Every ounce of progress is amazing. But I think the progress is slow.”

Peter Lovins, Columbus Blue Jackets
Peter Lovins is a champion fighting for inclusion and equality. (photo credit: Peter Lovins)

Lovins mentioned the work of Dr. Martin Luther King and fighting for equality. Among the powerful things Dr. King has said was “We want all of our rights. We want them here and we want them now.” Lovins believes that equality should be a way of life for everyone. He also went on to say that so much more could be done.

In Columbus specifically, there was a lounge a couple of years ago that was called the Wive’s Lounge. That has since changed and it’s now called the Family Lounge. It might seem like a small change to many. But for some, this change represents something big. It resembles a sign of safety. It’s not just for wives. It’s for families. Lovins cited this as an example of progress.

“Hockey in many ways does things right. But it still has ways to go supporting the women. And it’s not just the LGBTQ community. It’s supporting the women hockey players. It’s doing better with race issues. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

It’s easy to see why Lovins is well respected within the Blue Jackets and his community. He does so much work behind the scenes to make the Blue Jackets look good. He also does a ton of work to fight for the equality that everyone deserves. It’s these things that make him a true champion to all those that know him.