Without question, the three-headed monster of American sports remains football, baseball and basketball. The National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and NCAA present games that fans love and sponsors pay heavily to advertise with. There is a second class of team sport in the country that continues its grow and creates more-and-more job opportunities. The National Hockey League is among these growing sports leagues that should be on your watch list as you look for jobs in sports. Don’t discount the league because every game isn’t found on a major network and isn’t part of SportsCenter lead stories on a nightly basis. Explore these career options and consider the NHL’s league growth as an opportunity for your own professional success.
The National Hockey League has two ‘original six’ teams – the Blackhawks and Bruins – battling in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, the first such occurrence since 1979. The exciting finals matchup is another feather in the cap of a league that continues growing its fan base on a year-by-year basis. The NHL went through some lean years in its very recent past. Bloated player salaries, a nasty lockout and team relocation seemingly left only core fans hooked on the sport. But after the commissioner, team owners and the NHLPA (players’ union) made it through intense negotiations and kicked off a lockout-shortened 2013 season, the sport quickly began its healing. Late 2013 spring attendance numbers show a 1% uptick in game attendance when comparing last season’s final numbers to early March 2013 numbers. And final 2013 attendance numbers show that over half of the league’s 30 teams average at or over seating capacity on a nightly basis with just 4 teams falling under the 90% capacity level. People are coming to hockey games and they’re paying more to do so. Unlike the last NHL lockout where fans returned to find reduced ticket prices, a 5.7% season ticket price increase greeted fans this time around. But the attendance numbers proved that fans believe it’s worth the price of admission. Television viewership also validates the growing popularity of the sport. With many league games being presented on NBC Sports Network, cable viewership numbers reached their highest ratings since the ‘93-’94 regular season. The National Hockey League, once a league only for hardcore skate fans, has found its place in mainstream sports. With attendance and television viewership growth, come the need for professionals to support the league and its teams.
The type of jobs in hockey differs little from what is needed to support the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. The outer shell that surrounds the fast-paced sport revolves around extraordinary marketing, precise finance and accounting, bold management and bright, technology professionals. The current National Hockey League job market has a variety of openings geared towards several expertises. Team facility operations departments needs ice technicians, concession managers and venue engineers to keep arenas running smoothly. The digital marketing specialist position is the hot new hockey career as teams emphasis the role of internet and social media marketing in sports. Technical-focused jobs include database managers and website developers, both vital to attract fans and manage large amounts of data on current and potential customers. As season ticket and corporate suites grow in popularity, a host of season ticket representatives and group sales account executive jobs are more in-demand. The NHL is chock full of career opportunities but, if your best fit doesn’t exist at the pro level right now, you have other options. Fortunate for those of us trying to break into sports business, the NHL has an elaborate feeder system with minor league affiliates located all over the United States and Canada. If your current experience doesn’t lend itself to landing a job with a major league club, consider starting off with a lower class team. Like the players you’ll support, use your time in the minors to better your skills and become more well-rounded. Wherever you start, the opportunities exist to make your career in hockey fulfilling and exciting.
The more I watch hockey, the better I understand why it’s growing in popularity. Though scoring is generally low, shots-on-goal are frequent and the speed of the game is unmatched. Defensemen checks are clean and crisp, and the best puck-handlers are masterful. Off the rink, hockey is catching other leagues in marketing technique and use of digital mediums. The sport’s current successes are bringing more opportunities to people looking for an exciting job in sports.
By Niral Patel,