Picture this. A seven year-old girl sitting downstairs in her family basement, with walls decked out in vintage table-top hockey games and her father obnoxiously yelling at the TV. “SHOOT THE PUCK” were the words first handedly learned. As she observed more on what was occurring between the announcers vigorously yelling on TV about the Battle of Ontario and what the hell her Dad was doing jumping out from his seat on the couch, she soon replicated the act. Before you knew it, this little girl knew any player statistic, watched every televised game and attended several in person, caught puck after puck (20 to be exact) from resilient forward Chris Neil and received her very own authentic jersey…all of her favourite NHL hockey team, the Ottawa Senators.
Fast forward fourteen years. Game day. Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Ottawa Senators. As the whistle blew and morning practice came to an end, I headed into the dressing room along with the rest of the reporters, writers and cameramen. Stepping foot onto the vibrant red carpet (stressfully making sure I avoided stepping onto the centred logo, of course) and seeing some of the players I’ve adamantly watched over the last decade before me, I find the nerve to pinch myself. This is real. This is happening. If you’re thinking I had an obnoxious fan girl moment and asked every single one of the players for their autograph, you’re wrong. If that happened, I probably would have gotten fired. But…if you were to tell seven year-old me that I would one day intern for the Ottawa Senators, I’d probably call you a liar.
The social media landscape has advanced dramatically in the past decade, now playing a prominent role in our social culture and business industries. When it comes to intertwining social media with sports, Forbes best describes it as “the virtual sports bar that fans flock to before, during and after the games.” It wasn’t until I had taken a class offered at Ryerson University called Social and Interactive Media for Sports, when I realized where exactly I wanted to intern and what type of career I wanted to pursue after graduating. Combining hockey and social media was the goldmine for me and made total sense, and so…the internship research began.
Last Fall was when I landed the internship of my dreams. If anyone knows me, they know I love two things: social media and hockey. The internship was just that. The list of duties and key responsibilities consisted of taking part in media availability, assisting with management of Senators social channels, generating and promoting game day content such as editorial, photos, and videos, tracking social media engagement, and above all else, create raving fans. These duties were to take place on game days as well as non-game days as required.
Over the course of my internship, I would tack on other responsibilities. These responsibilities varied from writing articles for the website, taking photos of events at the rink and players at their morning practices, recording audio of and transcribing players in their media scrums as well as coach’s comments, creating and posting real-time game statistics to Twitter, notifying followers with period starts, choosing and contacting social fan contest winners, interviewing players, writing game summaries, assisting with the editing process of videos, and more.
From working the 43 Senators games during my time in Ottawa and magnifying my knowledge on the game of hockey, I’ve definitely learned a number of skills that I can take with me throughout my career journey… The sport media industry is a hard one to crack into; hours are unexpected and long, you need to work from the bottom in order to start doing the fun stuff and confidence and perseverance is key. The industry is constantly changing, always with good intentions in mind, of course. Being a perfectionist is a quality skill to have, it may consume more of your time but it shows that you undoubtedly care. Going off of that note, proceeding any social media strategy or post with high caution is essential as anything can backfire on social media and there’s a massive audience online to devour it up.
The main lesson I learned during this internship is to always challenge yourself. I was able to make this job a more valuable experience because of this as I decided to step foot in different areas on the job, even the ones that I wasn’t very experienced in such as interviewing players and writing articles. I would rather learn and experience many things rather than focus in on just one, that way I’d proceed with more confidence if I ever take part in them again. My first interview was with defensemen, Marc Methot. I had never interviewed anyone before in my career, let alone a professional athlete so you could say I was pretty nervous. We talked about The Bachelor (lol) and guilty pleasures. I’m definitely no Christine Simpson but I’m happy I took on the challenge. After talking with other players afterwards, my confidence levels became higher and each interview got better and better. As they say, practice makes perfect, right? I’m so thankful for my boss often pushing me outside of my comfort zone and having trust in me because of this. If I had stayed under my comfort blanket the entire time, I definitely wouldn’t have learned as much on the job as I did.
Needless to say, interning with the Ottawa Senators has definitely been the highlight of my career thus far. This internship allowed me to experience first-hand what the sport media industry is all about. It’s fast-paced, rapidly changing and ultimately rewarding. I’m able to walk away with more insight and valuable tools in my toolbox that can be highlighted in a resume and put to work in future positions. The most important rule I learned is to never step on the logo in the players dressing room. But besides this… never doubt what you can and cannot do. I quickly noticed how much creativity weighs a heavy role in social media and admired the amount of time and hard work different staff members put towards exceptional pieces of content for fan enjoyment. I was able to witness the good when our social content went viral and did successfully well, as well as the bad when content didn’t have the greatest online reaction. The Ottawa Senators fans are truly a passionate bunch so it was especially fun to be part of the team whose main responsibility was to create raving fans.
Overall, the internship focused my career goals and will consistently drive me towards my next chapter in the sport media industry. Ending my internship with a round one playoff game win was the icing on the cake for me as the fan environment was indescribable and a moment that will stay with me forever. It’s definitely the highlight to look forward to after the hard work everyone puts in all year round. Having to cut my internship short due to future planned vacation was heartbreaking to say the least. However, you best bet, that once seven year-old girl is back at home, cheering on her favourite NHL team, in front of the TV, from the couch, sitting beside her father, vigorously yelling (and probably tweeting) “SHOOT THE PUCK” as the Ottawa Senators head into round two of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.