Leadership / 11.29.22
For These NHL Women in Ticketing, It’s All About Goals and Assists
My favorite part of attending an NHL hockey game — whether it’s back in my old home market of Washington, D.C. (“Rock the red, Capitals!”) or my new home market of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, (“Go Hurricanes!) — is when they play “The Good Old Hockey Game” over the speakers when there’s a break in the action. It’s kind of the “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” of pro hockey, and it really gets the crowd up and singing together in unison.
In interviewing INTIX members for this “Women in NHL Ticketing” feature story, I was interested in what their favorite part of working in the sport has been. Pam David, Manager of Ticket Operations for the Ottawa Senators, says, “I love being able to look in on opening night and see all the fans having a great time and just take that all in. Knowing that I helped make this event happen, helped give all these people an experience, and helped create memories with their family and friends is a feel-good moment and makes all of the hard work and long hours worth it!”
Hayley Chapman, Senior Director of Ticket Operations, Administration & Reporting for the Toronto Maple Leafs, loves that each day on the job is never the same. “Whether it is a new event, ticketing issues or meeting new people, my day is always interesting. I am part of something special when it comes to delivering extraordinary experiences to our fans and that always makes me smile, no matter how tough some days are.”
Cait Schumann Vice President, Special Event Ticketing for Nationwide Arena & Columbus Arena Sports and Entertainment (including the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets), echoed Chapman’s sentiments: “I love the fact that every day is different and I get to deal with different people all of the time. And, when someone comes to an event, I love the fact that I have had a hand in what could be that person’s only outing of the year and that they are having the time of their life.”
Jacque Holowaty, Vice President of Employee & Guest Experience for the Seattle Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena, also enjoys the variety her job provides. She says, “I love the excitement of having to brainstorm and problem solve in the moment on curve balls that may get thrown my way, whether it be event related, guest related or event employee related.”
Clearly, all four of the ticketing pros interviewed for this article hold customer service near and dear to their hearts. The fan experience is something the NHL has really emphasized in recent years. Part of that outreach has been increasing the diversity of the fan base and of the team staffers serving their needs.
Chapman applauds the NHL for the growing group of female leaders, in both Canada and the U.S., currently employed. She asserts that the league has realized “the strength of diversifying at all levels. From an outside perspective, I think it is important to change the face of hockey for the future, and I believe the NHL is adapting and wants to set an example in the space.”
For her part, David also marvels at some of the strides that have been made, saying, “In Ottawa, we have a lot of talented and hardworking women working in our organization in a variety of roles. Women are in positions from executives to managers to part-time staff. That’s not something you would have seen years ago.”
In this regard, the Seattle Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena were in a unique position since they were building a team from scratch to start the 2021-22 season. This enabled the decision-makers to set the tone and standards right from the get-go regarding diverse hiring and other matters.
Holowaty says, “It wasn’t about hiring women in stereotypical positions usually held by women, but pushing the boundaries in areas like hockey operations where we hired Cammi Granato, the first female scout in the NHL. We also brought in Alexandra Mandrycky as a powerhouse in the data analytics field, and now she serves as our Assistant General Manager for the Seattle Kraken. By taking steps to show it doesn’t have to be a ‘man’s world,’ it opened up a space where more women not only felt career advancement and development, but actually saw it firsthand.”
In the game of hockey, just as much emphasis is placed on assists as goals when tabulating scoring. All four interviewees started their careers in pro sports and live events with big goals. And along the way, they have gotten some valuable assists that have propelled them to the next level.
David says, “I’ve had a few mentors — Jody Thorson, Maxine Olson and Scott Phillips — over the years. Thanks to their encouragement and feedback, I was always allowed to try new things. Some of those new things worked, and some didn’t … I guess the best advice I was given fits both in life and career, which was just to be passionate about any path you choose, love what you do, and the work you produce will reflect that.”
A valuable nugget of wisdom Schumann has kept top of mind in her work has been “don’t take anything too personally.” She says, “You may be dealing with an unhappy guest who is yelling. However, they are not yelling at you, they are yelling about the situation.
Meanwhile, in her rise through the ranks, Holowaty was able to recognize the value in being the change agent herself. She says, “If you want to see a more inclusive working environment, don’t wait for it to be there. Be part of the change to create it. If you want more support or professional development, don’t wait for someone to create it. Go out and search for it yourself. But remember to always share your knowledge, skills, and even flaws, because part of being the change is to help make it easier for future generations.”
Looking ahead, all four interviewees feel the future is bright for the next generations of women in NHL ticketing and other areas of league operations. For any young women reading this just starting in pro sports — hockey, in particular — what advice would our panel have for them? Schumann was the first to answer with some straight-to-the-point words of wisdom: “Have fun! You will be putting in a lot of hours. If you aren’t having fun, you are going to burn out quickly.”
David was equally straight-forward, saying, “The advice I’d give a young woman coming in now is to work hard, don’t be afraid to speak up when you have ideas, and don’t be discouraged if you fail. Because if you’re not failing once in a while, you definitely aren’t learning and growing. Above all else, always be proud of your achievements.”
Holowaty was a bit more outside the box in her counsel. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you are in. A really good friend and mentor said this to me, and I still think about it to this day. While it can mean the obvious — literally, work attire — to me, it means so much more. Show up to every meeting like you are the CEO if that is what you want to be. That means show up polished; armed with information and research; ready to provide context to the conversations; and, most importantly, ready to listen. Sometimes we get stuck thinking we don’t have the opportunity to make a difference in the roles we are in. But think about the roles you want to be in to help influence the positive change you want to see, and ‘dress’ for that role.”
Perhaps Chapman summed it up best: “Working in sports can be intimidating, time consuming and a balancing act at times. Don’t count yourself out of the race before you have even run it. Set your boundaries, work hard and if you love what you are doing, the rest will take care of itself. There is no right or wrong answer on where your career will lead you. So, make sure you are piloting that journey and have confidence in yourself. If you are struggling or unsure, build a group around you that will help lift you up. You got this. Believe it!”
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Tags: Sports , Women in Ticketing , NHL