BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: Trading Places (Part 2)
Blog #37 – May 29, 2021
By: John Peterson
If you’re reading this, you likely passed on the opportunity to swap jobs with the coaches, equipment manager or athletic trainer. Too much video, wrist-wrapping or handling sweaty gear. We understand.
Perhaps you just wanted to wait to see what else there is to try, before making your decision. That’s respectable too.
Broadcasting sounds like fun, right? How about controlling what goes up on the video board? Want to try selling tickets? Surely those options are more appealing than the ones described in Part 1 of this series.
Just in case you’re still undecided, I’ll do my best to paint a picture of what you’d be signing up to do. After all, it’s better to make an educated decision.
STATS AND MICROPHONES
You get to the rink at 9:00 a.m. because you like to sleep in.
Last night you wrapped up your postgame show, wrote the press release recapping the game, emailed it to your media contacts and posted it to the website. You made it home just before midnight, but you stayed up until 3:00 a.m. updating the game notes for today’s game.
Before you sit down at your desk, you pour a large cup of coffee and head downstairs to talk to the coaches. You grab the line combinations before morning skate so you can head back up to your office and put the finishing touches on your line chart and game notes.
Next you send out all the necessary reminders on social media that it’s game day, there’s a giveaway for the first 1,000 fans and a jersey auction after the game. We need to try to pack the building for tonight’s game and some people like to make last-minute plans, so maybe they’ll decide to come to the game tonight.
You compile the 20 pages of game notes and player biographies that you updated late last night and print 20 copies to distribute to both teams, coaches, referees and media members. You’ll also make up the roster sheets that the fans can pick up at the fan assistance table. We’ll need a couple hundred copies of those.
Better hang by the printer just in case it jams again. You’ll need to fix it and staple everything manually if the printer refuses to do it for you.
When you have your ten-pound pile of paper that looks like a stack of legal documents to study for a big case, you march up to press box to drop off half of them. Then you’ll go down to both locker rooms to deliver a handful to each team and to the officials’ room so they’re covered.
After a break for lunch, you return to film your game day preview video and share it on the web. You then set up your equipment in your broadcast booth and test your microphone to make sure everything still works. The rest of the afternoon is spent studying your opponent’s roster, memorizing the players’ names, numbers, hometowns, stats, storylines and anything else that might be interesting to talk about during the broadcast.
You write down questions for your pregame interview and head down to catch the coach at 5:00 p.m. before he meets with the team. When that’s done, you grab a quick pregame bite to eat, use the restroom if you have to (you likely won’t get another chance until the game ends) and return to the press box for you pregame show.
Make sure to stock up on water, hot tea, coffee, soda or whatever you need to talk for two hours straight. You’ll need it. But not too much, because, well…you know.
After the game, make sure your postgame show is relatively brief and you type your press release quickly, but accurately. There’s nothing worse than a bus full of players and coaches having to wait for the radio guy. We play tomorrow afternoon in Cincinnati so there’s no time to waste.
You’ll spend most of the bus trip updating those game notes instead of sleeping. When you arrive at the team hotel to drop the players off early in the morning, you have a decision to make. Go to bed, or head up to the arena to help set up the locker room with the equipment manager and trainer.
IF you want to be well-liked, you choose the latter.
SEATS AND SPONSORS
On game nights, these individuals assist wherever they can. They do what they can to help the game operations crew or chip in passing out giveaway items. Sometimes they’ll assist with the social media efforts or run various errands around the arena. Most of the time, you can find the sales team mingling with season ticket holders, groups and sponsors.
But for this exercise, you’re taking over their job on a regular 9-5 workday. Are you ready?
Your job is to bring as many people out to the game as possible and build support to get Wings Event Center rocking. There won’t be anyone micromanaging your schedule. It’s up to you to get creative and find ways to put butts in seats.
Most days you’ll have huddles, sales discussions or other staff meetings in the morning, but then the world is your oyster. You brainstorm ideas for theme nights, build your pipeline and prioritize your day. You make some calls, send some emails, schedule meetings and tours of the arena, and drop off flyers to local businesses.
Your office consists of flyers tacked on the walls and bulletin boards like you’re in a college dorm room. You need to know where everything is in the building, the difference between full season and half season tickets, 9-Packs, 5-Packs, 3-Packs, group pricing, single game pricing and the difference between them.
What are the benefits of each ticket package? What theme nights are coming up and what seating options are available. You have to be a good listener, accommodating, and have solutions for different customers’ specific needs and interests.
You have goals to achieve and targeted sellouts to shoot for. Your job is results-driven. But customer service is the name of the game. You need to be helpful, build relationships with your season ticket holders and answer their questions and concerns.
If you’d rather sell corporate sponsorships instead of tickets, you’ll need to put on your creative hat and keep it on because no business is the same and every business has a different idea of what they’re looking for out of a partnerships with a pro hockey team. How can you help them? What sponsorship elements can you propose that create a mutually-beneficial relationship?
Be patient, because these don’t happen overnight. You need to ask questions, offer solutions and show you truly care about the success of their business. You set up lots of meetings, lunches, happy hours, tours and calendar reminders for follow-up conversations.
For existing corporate partners, you have to memorize and catalog the inventory promised to each one specifically. Check to make sure those promises are being fulfilled and reach out to others on staff who are tasked with fulfilling those elements in their respective roles.
When the day is done, you plan ahead for tomorrow and the rest of the week. You tend to have more consistent hours than those in hockey operations and have a few extra weekends free when the team is on the road, but your job sometimes isn’t as glamorous and you’re okay with that.
INTERNS AND INTERMISSIONS
Finally, you can choose one of two game operations roles if you feel like managing a staff of 5-10, while following a time-sensitive and sponsor-laden script.
The first of the two positions requires a lot of tech-savvy, creative control, and precision. You show up to the arena and test all the equipment in the control room. Are all the wires connected properly and working the way they should. If not, that shiny 50-foot video board might look more like a 1970’s TV set stuck on the blizzard channel.
You head up to the opposite press box with all the fancy equipment to test out your theme night specific graphics on the video board. If you haven’t done so already, you assign your crew members working the game a role so they know what they’re doing when they arrive later in the evening. Who is running what camera in which corner and who is in charge of the switchboard? Delegate.
When that’s done, you head back to your office and touch up any graphic or video that needs last minute editing, grab a camera, and head down to the ice to film the game day preview. You run back up and whip a two-minute video together from scratch that is professional and gets the message across and send it to the broadcaster to post.
In the final hours leading up to the game, you go over the script one more time, meet with you camera crew one more time, grab a headset because you’re calling the shots for the game night presentation, and head back to the control booth.
As the game progresses, you’re in charge of everything that goes up on the video board, switch from camera angle to camera angle, triggering sponsor videos to play and putting up overlays for each TV timeout and corresponding promotion.
When you’re done, you cut up the game highlights and upload them for the media to access.
Now for the other game operations position.
You write the game script, organizing the national anthem, intermissions, sponsored elements and TV timeout traditions such as Hometown Hero, etc. This script goes in a big binder and winds up in the hands of our public address announcer who sits in the penalty box and the fans hear over the loud speaker during games.
Throughout the course of the day, you also delegate. You have to. If there’s a giveaway that night, you and your staff of interns organize all the boxes and line them up by each entrance. You put the music playlist together. You print off a copy of the game script for every person working that night’s game, and try to coordinate it so you and the broadcaster don’t try to print at the same time. There’s always a log jam at the copier.
At 5:00 p.m. you conduct a staff meeting to talk through the entire list of events, what order they go in and who is in charge of Zamboni riders, bench buddies, anthem singers, intermission games and jersey auction responsibilities. You also instruct the in-game host where to be and when.
Oh, one more thing. You manage Slappy’s schedule, and he doesn’t talk.
Obviously Part 1 and Part 2 collectively don’t cover the full gamut of hockey jobs, but hopefully it gives you more than enough options to choose from. Who are you trading places with?
Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!