Leadership / 03.01.23
From Biomedical Sciences to Ticket Operations, Hayley Chapman Takes the Cake in Ticketing
Hayley Chapman’s life is rooted in sports and revolves around family — and sometimes, the two have a way of crossing paths. She has spent over 16 years working for major league hockey, basketball and soccer teams and laughs that “making my kids’ birthday cakes has become somewhat of an Olympic sport for me.” More on that later.
It is clear that when it comes to her family, Hayley would change nothing if she could go back in time. Hayley’s family, including Cameron, her husband of 12 years, four-year-old daughter Sophie and seven-year-old daughter Addilyn “walk around daily with my heart in them,” she says. “They support me, give me perspective, challenge me and have helped me grow so much personally. Not to mention they give the best hugs.”
On the professional front, Hayley has learned over the years that “growth, development and business maturity take time” and that one should “use that time to create connections, learn and navigate their career with purpose.”
Her track record suggests she has done just that.
“There are so many steps in early life that have brought me to where I am,” Hayley says. “Playing competitive hockey, choosing the university I went to because of their hockey and scholastic program. This challenged me. It fostered so many traits and helped me grow both mentally and emotionally. To this day, these are traits that I lean into at work and with my team.”
Hayley was on the varsity women's hockey team when she attended the University of Guelph in southern Ontario. It was an experience that taught her all about teamwork and gave Hayley a competitive edge that has driven her to “get out of [the] box.”
“It was the first lens that I had on accepting people for who they are, knowing what their strengths are and using those strengths to help them and to help the team. Teamwork, competitiveness and time management [are all valuable in my work today],” she says. “I [also] learned leadership at a very early stage of my life because of sports … Leaders have the ability to make an impact on people’s lives and ensure talent is retained and there is growth in the organization. These qualities are most important to me because they not only help from a people perspective with regards to building relationships, but it also indicates they know how to recognize their teams and are there to support ideas and, with their persuasiveness, get them over the line.”
Today, in her role as Senior Director of Ticket Operations and Administration for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), Hayley leads a staff of over 60 full-time, part-time and unionized employees, all of whom have a role to play in supporting four of the six major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. MLSE teams include the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Toronto FC of Major League Soccer (MLS), the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and their minor league farm teams.
MLSE ticket operations, administration and reporting team (2022).
When it comes to colleagues, Hayley expects authenticity and honesty.
“I have always believed you hire the person and train for skill,” she says. “When people are authentic, open, and have the ability to make critical decisions while being themselves [but are also] mindful of others and can honestly convey what they are thinking or believing, you have an amazing colleague and teammate to help build culture and people … I admire people who live their most authentic lives. They speak their truth, follow their dreams and build others up along the way.”
Like many others, Hayley did not start life with a dream to work in ticketing. She wanted to be a vet and earned a degree in biomedicine.
“For a girl who went to school to become a vet, I am a long way from home,” she says. “However, it was like it was meant to be … My most memorable career moment would have been the day I found out I got my first full-time gig. That truly was the start of an amazing career.”
Hayley’s home away from home — Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
So, how did she get into ticketing? Like most of the stories we have told in our “Getting to Know You” series over the years, this was not something Hayley planned.
“I finished university a semester early and came home. At that point, I was hemming and hawing about going to vet school or medical school because it was another four years, and I was pretty gassed coming out of it, playing varsity hockey and the rigor of the academics. I kept thinking, ‘Do I want to do another four years?’”
A friend of a friend knew somebody at MLSE who needed help in the security department. Hayley was interested, and she got the job. Then, what started as a part-time opportunity turned into more full-time hours. She loved working in sports, so Hayley was all in when a pathway to continue forging a fantastic career presented itself.
“Toronto FC, our MLS team, was starting up and they had a job open for a coordinator of events, which was going to oversee some events for their membership base. I applied for that, and I got the job. The first thing they wanted me to do was learn the ticketing system,” Hayley says, adding that it helped her understand the members she would be engaging with, the types of events she would host and associated revenues. “I picked it up really quickly, and then the person in the ticket operations seat just didn't show up to work one day.”
Management had to fill that critical role quickly, and Hayley was the ideal candidate.
“The manager of sales at the time said, ‘Hayley, you are really good on the system. Would you want to move over and help us out and help us run the operations?’ I said, ‘Well, I want to help you guys out for sure, but I am not sure if that is what I signed up for.’ And the rest is history,” she says. “[Later], my boss said, ‘You are really great. I want to bring you over to work on the Leafs and Raptors brands.’ So, we backfilled TFC, and I continued to move up the chain from there.”
And what is it that Hayley loves most about her job?
“The sports and entertainment industry is not your typical 9-5 job, but it is fun,” she says. “I love working with other teams, promoters, leagues and various departments in our organization, and no two days seem the same. It can be stressful to have things turn upside down unexpectedly, but when you accomplish great things, there is no better feeling. Seeing the fans getting into your venues, the excitement for a fan’s first concert or game, and the players or artists playing to a packed house will never get old. We have such an impact on so many people. Let’s not forget how exciting it is to be a part of something so big and have everyone focused on the same goal of winning championships or having packed houses for our artists and being a part of that. I wouldn’t trade that.”
NHL Centennial Classic in 2017 at Toronto’s BMO Field.
Hayley’s job has, of course, given her the opportunity to see some incredible sporting events in some equally fantastic venues.
“My first MLS Cup [in 2017 when Toronto FC won] will go down as one of the best and most memorable events, followed very closely by our Toronto Raptors championship win [in 2019]. I remember being beside one of my teammates and having tears rolling down our faces. This is why we do what we do,” she says.
Hayley says, “One of the best stadium experiences I have had was when we ticketed the Winter Classic with the NHL. We did ‘The Big House’ in Michigan … [and] the size of what we accomplished and what we ticketed was incredible. I have never ticketed a stadium that size, and to do it for hockey, to have it look like it did and the success that we had [was amazing]. We split the stadium. We were playing against Detroit. We had to ticket the Leafs’ side and Detroit ticketed their side. They were looking for a red-and-white feel. It was incredible.”
Fresh from INTIX 2023 in Seattle when we spoke, Hayley was fired up about the conference, the organization and her upcoming role as a board member.
“This is not a one-time conference,” she says. “INTIX is absolutely what you want to make it; the more you participate and get involved, the more it gives back. INTIX is an amazing association that offers connection, learning and growth. I am so excited to join the board and continue educating organizations about INTIX and the importance of an association for members in their ticketing group.”
Hayley continues, “The best thing about being a part of INTIX is the opportunity to have people in your seat at your fingertips. You can have daily posts or times when you are connecting less, but you always have a hub of information and people available to you. There are member groups, and it gives you opportunities to stretch outside of your organization and have an impact on people all around the world. … It is all about ongoing learning, keeping an eye on industry trends and providing growth opportunities in a safe, supported space.”
Helping others grow is an important part of Hayley’s professional and personal life. It is, she says, what brings her the most joy.
“I continue to learn about human behavior and leadership to support those around me in a more meaningful way. I know this sounds cliché, but seeing others succeed and get where they want to go or helping people make choices to better align with their values drives me personally and professionally. As a leader, I think sometimes we can forget the privilege we have in helping those around us, seeing their potential, growing their confidence and seeing them flourish.”
Indeed, Hayley has so much appreciation and gratitude for her team, and the larger team around her in ticketing. “They continue to amaze me with how they raise the bar every day and push our company forward,” she says.
MLSE senior ticketing leadership team, L-R: Tom McDonald, Sue Beres, Hayley Chapman, Nitsa Staikos, Billy Cranney and Anton Wimmer.
When she is not focused on her work, you are likely to find Hayley spending time with her family or friends. She enjoys getting together and having a good laugh and most values humor, honesty and trust in her friends.
“Let’s be honest, when you sign up for friendship, it is about creating a bond and trust amongst those friends and the ability to laugh together and with each other. Life is not meant to be taken too seriously. We forget to have some fun!”
When it comes to fun, you may find Hayley relaxing with a good book. For light reading, she enjoys the works of Sophie Kinsella, a bestselling English novelist. Adele, her favorite musician, also lives across the pond. “I find her so inspirational,” Hayley says, adding that she had piano lessons as a child but was not “naturally gifted.” She would, however, love to have some real talent in that area and jam with her children.
Another talent Hayley wishes for is a stronger ability to learn foreign languages. “What a dream it would be to be able to communicate with people from around the world, with no barriers,” she says.
Hayley is also interested in traveling and dreams of living somewhere warmer than Toronto. “I love Canada, I love Ontario, but even though I am a hockey player, winter is tough,” she says. “California would be amazing [for its] great weather and outdoor lifestyle. I feel like Los Angeles is a big enough city. They have exciting sports down there, there is entertainment, there is a vibe, it is lively, and it has beaches … However, if I won the lottery and could live life on a whim, Greece, Italy or France would be incredible.”
And with that, Hayley is ready to talk more about her love of baking. Looking at the photos of her beautiful creations — we would rank her atop any Olympic podium if baking was a sport.
“I have always loved baking,” she says. “It has been a stress reliever for me. I enjoy trying different things … Parents go all out on kids’ cakes, and they are expensive. I was looking at one, and it was $120 for a kid's birthday cake. I thought, ‘I can do that!’”
So, try — and succeed — she did. “It takes me forever because I am new and I am not efficient at it, but I love doing it … It brings out your artistic lens, how you are going to balance the cake and what decorations are going to make it look good, and I just get a lot of out of that … They are regular tiered cakes, but I kind of go crazy with the décor. The last ones I did for Sophie and Addilyn were a rainbow cake with a huge cloud on the top, and we've done ‘My Little Pony.’ There have been a bunch. [As I said earlier], making birthday cakes has become somewhat of an Olympic sport for me.”
Hayley is winning on all fronts, from baking and a highly successful career to the family she adores.
“[My greatest achievement is] where I am in life right now. Sometimes I think we lose sight [of what we have] and are always so driven by media, friends around us and this comparison factor of what's next. I am so grateful to be in a job that I still love getting up for, even though I have been in it and the industry for 16 years … I am thankful for MLSE, sports, being in live entertainment and learning more. I have my family; it was really hard to have kids, and sometimes I feel like we need to take a step back and be grateful for what we have.”
Indeed, Hayley. And on that note, INTIX is thankful for you and everything you do for our association and the ticketing community.
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Tags: Leadership , Getting To Know You