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A Behind The Scenes Look At Game Day Operations With Niagara IceDogs’ Rachael Callaghan

Rachael Callaghan | Manager of Game Day Operations | Niagara IceDogs

In order to do this job, you have to be okay with things changing last minute and maintain a very positive attitude.

Rachael Callaghan

Manager of Game Day Operations

Niagara IceDogs

× The interview with Rachael Callaghan was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Manager of Game Day Operations for the Niagara IceDogs and what does a typical day look like for you?

The role of any Manager of Game Day Operations has many attributions.

  1. I am responsible for hiring and managing all game-day operations volunteers and interns. I assist them in setting up the arena: organizing, executing and breaking down all of the in-game promotions, events and kiosks.
  2. I work directly with our corporate sponsorship manager on game day activations, including set-up, in-game servicing, promotions, kiosks and prizing.
  3. I provide support needed by teams, officials, full-time and part-time staff members on game days.
  4. I manage and assist in the creation, planning, preparation and origination of all entertainment aspects of home games to enhance the fan experience. This includes researching and developing new promotions and giveaways and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.
  5. I oversee all game day staff such as the media crew, in-game host, PA announcer, volunteers, mascot, Ice-cleaners and ushers.

A typical day/week for me would be (if we have a game on a Thursday): Monday-Wednesday I would be writing the scripts for our PA announcer and in-stand host as well as putting together a master sheet for our media team that tells them whistle-by-whistle what is going on during a game. I would be approving radio ads and paper ads to promote our games for that week/upcoming weeks.

Then, on Wednesday by 5pm, I send the script and master sheet to the correct people so that they have some time to look over everything.

On a game day, I have to change any rink boards that need changing, set-up tables for sponsors, print all scripts, the master sheet, birthday lists for our mascot etc to ensure all staff members have what they need to make the game-day run smooth.

I have to put the parking list together and send to my contact at the Meridian Centre to ensure the parking attendant knows who can park in our parking lot.

An hour before the game, I will go talk to the media company and go over anything that needs clarification. Then, I will put a headset on that connects to 7-9 other people.

About 20 minutes before puck drop, I will go get whoever is doing a ceremonial puck drop, set up carpets at centre ice and once that puck drop is over I am basically just walking around checking up on people in case they have any questions.

In a role like Game Day Operations, you take on many tasks. What makes a good leader in a role like yours? In addition, how do you stay organized and ensure each facet is taken care of?

In order to do this job, you have to be okay with things changing last minute and maintain a very positive attitude. There may be times where a sponsor wants something to happen at the last minute and you have to make it happen with a smile on your face.

You have to be able to lead a group of high school/university students and understand that some times things might not get done exactly how you want it and be able to talk to them about it without getting mad/angry. I stay organized by making lists.

Each week I will make a list of everything that needs to be done. Once I have finished the task, I will cross it off. If the day is done or I am waiting for something, I will write that down beside the task so that the next day, I know where I left off.

For example, if we have 2 games in a week, I will put 2 binders on my desk and organize the papers for each game and put them in the correct folder. That way, if I am not in the office and someone needs something for that game they know exactly where to look.

What selection criteria do you use when it comes to the hiring process of game day staff?

All of our game day staff are volunteers that come from the Niagara region. If you are in the Sport Management program, I will bring you in for a few games to learn what the volunteers do before/during/after games and if you enjoy it, I welcome you to stay on for the year.

I usually have around 7-10 students that come to every game and then 2-3 students that come to a few each month. I also allow high school students in grade 11 or 12 to come to a few games to get volunteer hours if they are planning on taking Sport Management once they graduate.

The fan experience is dependent on your role. How do you ensure that each and every fan is getting a worthwhile experience out of their attendance at a game?

I spend about 2-3 days a week coming up with content and ideas to ensure the fans are getting an amazing experience at every game.

The Niagara IceDogs hire a company located in St. Catharines called Fourgrounds and they come up with graphics and videos to play/put up on the video board during our game to get some laughs and get messages across to all the fans.

If there is a call under review and it is taking a little longer than normal, they will put something up on the video board like karaoke to get fans interacting instead of just sitting in their seat.

We also do some of the same activations every game so that fans can feel apart of something the more they come to games and they can explain what is going on to new fans which gets them to know their neighbour. For example, yelling the last name of a player who just scored when we announce the goal. We have many many fans tell us on social media or via email how amazing our game day experience is!

Many decisions on game day are guesstimates and subjective judgement calls. Tell us about your most memorable guesstimate or subjective judgment call! How did you combat situations that could easily become stressful?

One of my most guesstimate or subjective judgment call nights was when our goalie, Tucker Tynan got injured on the ice. In a matter of 15 seconds, after he got hurt, I had to deal with the Manager on duty at the Meridian Centre regarding crowd control. People were getting out of their seats to see what was going on.

Fans behind the net were passing out so we had to ensure EMS was going to every section in the building attending to fans. We had to work with Security and ushers to watch for any fights breaking out or anyone who needed medical attention as well as help any fans with any questions. We had to call for an ambulance to come and take him to the hospital.

I was in constant communication with our media team and PA announcer to put information up on the video board once we received information about the game. Once I was told the game was over, we had to make an announcement letting fans know to exit the building and what to do with their tickets. Everything was happening so fast and everyone had questions.

I was in contact with all parties involved ensuring I addressed as many needs as I could at the moment. Everyone was able to stay calm and communication between all parties was key. If something like this were to ever happen again, I would know exactly what to do and what steps to take!

Hayley's Final Thoughts

Rachael’s role with the Niagara IceDogs entails a wide range of tasks. Although her job title is Manager of Game Day Operations, a lot of her work takes place on non-game days. From writing scripts to creating new content to changing rink boards, Rachael has a lot on her plate! I admire the behind-the-scenes work Rachael puts in as she makes each and every game a unique and fun experience for IceDogs fans. We all know the uncertainty of events, in this case, IceDogs game-days. Rachael has had plenty of changes happen to her script yet, throughout it all, she keeps her composure. Even throughout a scary situation like Tucker Tynan’s injury, Rachael maintained a calm forefront. Game-day operations may be a challenging position but keeping a positive attitude throughout speaks volumes.

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