front entrance of Huff Hall

2020 Sapora Symposium

Sapora Symposium: Social Justice / Hockey is for Everyone

On November 19, 2020, members of the front office of the Chicago Blackhawks discussed outreach efforts to promote hockey in youth sports.

Click here to see the full transcript.

JAN PODGORNI: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the 2020 University of Illinois Recreation Sport Tourism Sapora Symposium. My name is Jan Podgorni, and I'm a senior studying recreation sport tourism with a concentration in sport management. I am honored to be able to introduce our panels tonight from the Chicago Blackhawks, Senior Executive Director of Fan Development, Annie Camins, and Director of Community Relations Ashley Hinton.

Tonight's discussion will focus on the Hockey is for Everyone initiative and the overall inclusiveness programs that the Blackhawks and NHL has to offer. Personally, these things are forever cherished to me. Being a former hockey player and current coach in the Chicagoland area has further embedded within me the importance of making hockey a feasible sport for everyone to play, and regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity or expression, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. The hockey world becomes a better place when we're all unified as one.

I am extremely grateful that the Chicago Blackhawks organization, the team that I've idolized since being a young kid, has taken the initiative to make hockey an opportunity for all. I will be now handing it off to Dr. Michael Racyraft. Thank you very much, and go Illini.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Jan, it was an obvious choice when we were looking for students to do our introduction tonight, so that was-- you are a passionate, knowledgeable fan, and I really thank you for your time in doing that. It was well done.

JAN PODGORNI: Thank you.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Before I hand it over to Annie, I just want to say on behalf of our faculty, the Department of RST, welcome, Annie Camins and Ashley Hinton. I do want to say that we are very, very-- take a lot of pride. We've had an excellent relationship with the Chicago Blackhawks going back five, six years. They've been incredibly generous with their time and access. We've been fortunate we've taken, oh, hundreds, literally hundreds of university students to hockey games, and it's been an amazing experience.

I think for me-- and I say this a lot-- one of the proudest moments I've had as a faculty member was back in 2015. I believe I had four former students of mine get Stanley Cup championship rings. And they sent me a picture of the four of them, and it was like-- it was one of those-- it was kind of-- it was an emotional experience. So I certainly-- we certainly value and appreciate all that you guys do for us, and we can learn a lot from what you guys do. So welcome. Welcome to our symposium this year, and thank you for being with us. We're going to start our conversation tonight with Annie Camins.

ANNIE CAMINS: Michael, thank you. I appreciate it. The floor is mine now, right?

MIKE RAYCRAFT: It's all you.

JAN PODGORNI: Well, thank you, everybody, for being here tonight. Ashley and I were talking beforehand, and we're a little nervous. We haven't done a webinar before. We do some Zoom calls where we can see everybody's face, but this is a little different as it's a webinar and I'm just feeling like I'm talking to myself. So hopefully you guys are all engaged and you're excited to be here. I can't see your smiling faces, but I'm sure there's a lot of you out there.

So I'll just introduce myself and talk a little bit about the history of my time at the Blackhawks. I have been with the organization going on 13 years. We usually talk in seasons, so we usually say we're going into our 13th season. But unfortunately, that is not the case yet. We're hoping that that is soon, but obviously with the change in the world right now, we're just hoping that the players can get back on the ice safely and we can cheer on the Blackhawks again soon.

I started in the hockey-- I guess pro sports side of things when I started working for the LA Kings back in 1998. And I worked for them for five years before I moved back home to Chicago to work for the Chicago Blackhawks, my hometown team. I did grow up playing hockey. I played hockey in a suburb of Chicago and then went on to play in college and was a finalist on the Olympic team. So hockey has always kind of been in my family, been in my blood, and something I've always enjoyed being a part of. So the job with the Chicago Blackhawks was sort of a dream job, I guess, just working with my hometown team and promoting the sport that I love so much and believe in.

And I think that there's just so many ways to get kids involved in the sport, no matter what kind of financial or economic background do you come from. We're just hoping that more kids can play. So that's a little a bit about me. I guess we can talk about the certain programs that we run within our organization as we get into this webinar a little bit more, but my focus really, just so you know the difference between Ashley and I, my focus is more on the fan development and youth hockey side. So I work mainly with the youth hockey rinks in the area.

Jan and I were just talking beforehand, and I did a lot in the ring that he grew up in and with his high school and amateur teams that he played on, so just trying to familiarize ourselves with the local hockey organizations. We actually have a good relationship with U of I and the rink there as well. We have about 70 or so rink partners in the Chicagoland area, also including Indiana, Ohio-- excuse me, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Kind of as far as our fan base can go, we try to get into the youth hockey rinks and push our brand-- not push our brand but promote the brand and the sport to the young hockey players that are just starting.

In addition to that, more on the grassroots or fan development side of things, we work very closely with Chicago public schools to introduce them to hockey for the very first time. So a program that we launched a few years ago called GOAL-- stands for "Get Out And Learn"-- was a way that we could introduce the sport to kids in the public school system that may not have had a chance to otherwise go to a rink or try to play hockey. So we would send a team of three to four coaches out into different schools during a PE class, teach them 45 minutes of floor hockey, and then leave the gear behind. And the gym teacher would then train the kids on how to play and they would continue to play throughout the school year, and sometimes we would surprise them with guest alumni or players, and Tommy hawk, of course, our mascot, would show up as well.

So just trying to get sticks in hands at a very young age and try to get these kids familiar with our sport, similar to how they are familiar with other sports, but hockey being a little bit more unique because it's a little bit harder to just find an ice rink and play like it is with basketball or baseball or other sports. So we're constantly challenged with the cost barrier and the entrance barrier into hockey, and we just want to make sure that we can offer opportunities for children to try the sport, to break down those barriers if that's something that is inhibiting them from wanting to try.

We run some other programs, too, with Fifth Third Ice Arena that I can talk about a little later, and our new arena, as well as some programming on the high-school hockey side and with adults as well. So that's kind of the realm of what we do, pretty much anything that is involved with hockey, kids or adults, we have some sort of program or initiative around that.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Can we talk a little bit about the First Stride program--

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, absolutely.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: --and the activities you're bringing into the west side of Chicago?

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, for sure. So about three and 1/2 years ago-- I don't know if you guys are familiar or not, but about three 1/2 years ago, we built the Fifth Third Ice Arena. It was called MB Ice Arena and now is renamed to the Fifth Third Ice Arena. It was a private project from our owner, Rocky Wirtz, who was very adamant about putting two sheets of ice on the west side about a block from the United Center. He thought that that would be the place to kind of create this new community and allow kids to open the doors and allow kids to try skating for the first time.

So the two-sheet facility is dedicated about 85% of the time back to the community. The Blackhawks use it during the day for about two hours, and the rest of it, he was very adamant about it being used for the community, so not only our programs, like the Mission, as our AAA team, or certain other hockey clubs-- high school and hockey clubs that use it. But during the day, the daytime ice is always-- for any Ice Arena operator, the daytime ice is always very difficult to sell because kids are in school. So that's usually where programming is hard on rinks and where they kind of lose some of the steam of trying to stay open.

So we thought that it would be a great idea if we used these GOAL schools, the Get Out and Learn schools that we had already had a relationship with, and figured out a way to get them over into the Fifth Third Ice Arena. So we developed a program called First Stride, and First Stride's kind of the next step after GOAL. So GOAL is like you're learning and in the schools and the gym class, and then the next step program to that is called First Stride. And so once you've gone in through the GOAL program and you've learned a little bit about hockey with your stick and ball, you're then transported over to Fifth Third Ice Arena as a field trip.

So we had slots either from 9:00 to noon during the day or noon to 2:00-- and this was obviously all pre-COVID. We're not doing it now. It was a field trip opportunity for these schools to come to Fifth Third Ice Arena, see the Blackhawks' practice facility. A lot of times the Blackhawks are practicing on one side of the ice, and then the other arena or the other sheet was used for the First Stride program. And so we'd have about 60 kids in the building at once. 30 of them would get on the ice, and we'd have instructors out there, and we'd just teach them the basics of skating. We'd obviously give them rental skates and kind of all the gear-- helmets, all the gear they needed. They would get on the ice and skate for about 45 minutes.

And then we had the other group go up into a classroom and they were learning a little bit about hockey as it pertains to STEM learning. So we developed a program called Future Goals, which is through one of our partners, a company called EverFi, and they basically developed hockey-- STEM-based learning as it relates to hockey, how the angle that the puck bounces off the boards or the padding that the goalie views, or how the ice is frozen, so all these different kind of math and science lessons around the game of hockey and, obviously, around our brand as well and learning a little bit about our players.

So it's a great program. They would switch, so they'd go about 45 minutes in each. They'd have a snack, and then they'd switch, and then they'd get back on the bus and go back to school. That was all school-based programming. It was-- it's a huge success. We've to date had about 14,000 kids in the building that have learned skating-- I would say mostly for the very first time. There were a few kids that had skated before.

But the unique thing about this First Stride program is that not only did they come in just for two to three hours on that day, but they're always invited back. So once you're part of the First Stride program, you're now in our database. You can come back at any time. You come to the front desk, you say this is my name, this is my school, you and your family are invited, and you have free rental skates, free skate helpers, as we call them, free ice time as many times as you want. So we would capture the kids that were really, really interested in playing hockey-- again, these are all kids that have never skated before or played or even been inside a rink before. So if they showed interest that they wanted to skate and play more, we would then kind of follow up with them and put them into some of our other learn-to-skate and learn-to-play programs.

So that's been pretty successful. Obviously, with COVID, we haven't been able to do it this year, and we're hoping by-- even if schools do go back into session in January, we are hoping that by next spring or maybe by next fall, we will start the program up again.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: And you said that you were a finalist on the Olympic team. What type of programs are you guys doing to target women, girls?

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, well, obviously, that's my passion. I came from playing hockey back-- I'm obviously a lot older than you guys, so when I was playing hockey, there weren't a lot of girls playing. So it's very important to me that I see that girls have an opportunity to play hockey with other girls if that's what they want. Some don't. I didn't. I wanted to play with the boys, but I do have an eight-year-old daughter, and she is very passionate about certain sports, and she wants to be with her friends, and she wants to play hockey with other girls or soccer or whatever it may be.

So we saw a real need there. Especially when I came in in '08, there just wasn't a lot around girls' hockey. It was still kind of a new sport for us-- or a new, I guess, segment of it. So I was-- and Ashley can attest to this because she's been with the organization as long as me. But we were both very adamant about getting more girls interested in the sport. And that doesn't have to be at the Olympic level or at the college level. It's just-- let's get more kids on the ice that want to play, and if you're intimidated to play in a coed environment, why not just shift you to play with all girls?

So we kind of had the opportunity to say, OK, let's do a summer camp with just coed summer camp and let's also do one with just girls. And the turnout was very popular, so we decided to launch more programming around girls' and women's hockey. We've been very fortunate to be working with Kendall Coyne Schofield I don't know if you guys are familiar with her. I know Jan is, but she's a local Olympian. She's from Palos Heights. She has been with us, with our organization, probably since 2013 or '14, when she really was kind of a superstar, up-and-coming, and brought home a silver medal from the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and then in 2018 brought home the gold medal.

So we've really had a great relationship with her, and she's been kind of our unofficial hockey ambassador and just a great community leader for us and really helped us grow the game on the girls' side. We have done a program named specifically after her called the Golden Coynes. And that was kind of a continue-to-play program for girls that, again, maybe had just started hockey and then didn't know where to go. So maybe you just started an eight-week program and now you're lost or you don't know what's next for you, and you just really want to play with other girls.

And so we launched this program around Kendall and used her name and her fame and her awesome personality, and she'd come out. Last spring, she came out for an 8- to 10-week summer session, and we had about 200 girls that signed up for it and just got to have an all-female staff on the ice and just got to learn more about girls' hockey and about Kendall. And we had a pizza party afterwards and a locker room tour and we watched a little bit of the world championships that Kendall had played in, and so it was more of kind of the camaraderie and getting to know other girls, but also around our Blackhawks brand as well. Having girls involved in sport, no matter at what level, if you want to work in the front office or if you want to play on the ice, whatever it is, we just felt it was very important to involve our females in that capacity.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: You guys are so engaged with the community. What type of direction are you getting from the league, and how much of this is league-wide versus programs that maybe would be unique to Chicago?

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, well, I'm going to kind of let Ashley talk a little bit more when it's her turn to talk on more of the league-wide initiative. But I'd say a lot of it, we focus a lot-- Ashley and her team do a really great job on the NHL kind of club-wide initiative. But they do focus on Girls' and Women's Month, particularly in February because that's around International Girl and Women's Day, I think it's called-- International Girl and Women's Day. So we focus a lot around pushing girls' and women's hockey around there, and we do a lot of different things that the NHL advises us on. It's not necessarily programs that we are told to do from the NHL. I know Ashley will talk about certain ones that are kind of a little bit more league-wide, but I think that the Blackhawks and the NHL obviously have a great relationship and do programming that makes the most sense in the community that we live in and that we're around. Does that answer your question?

MIKE RAYCRAFT: OK, so this sounds-- it did. This sounds like probably a good time, then. Let's transition over to Ashley Hinton. Ashley, welcome to the symposium, and thank you for joining us tonight.

ASHLEY HINTON: Thank you so much for having me. So my name is Ashley Hinton. I'm the Senior Director of Community Relations with the Blackhawks for 13 years now. I actually got to start under the guidance of Annie. I interviewed with HR, and they said you can skate. Pretty much, you're hired. So I started in the youth hockey department with Annie and really got to learn where she sells herself short a little bit in the women's hockey movement. She's on the advisory board. She was selected to be on it as really just a catalyst for the women's sport and we need more people like her to really just increase the game, so I'm proud to work with her.

I personally went to the University of Michigan, so sorry for everybody on the call. But I was also a sports management major, and my first job out of college was with the Blackhawks, and I've been there ever since. And after I transitioned from youth hockey, I went over to the community relations department, where I now am still in that department and really get to chair a lot of our larger initiatives, like league-wide initiatives, like Annie was saying, our Hockey is for Everyone efforts that fall outside of Annie's scope, such as Pride and Hockey Fights Cancer. So she kind of handles everything that touches the sport of hockey, where a lot of what I do is exposure and new audiences and also just really taking care of an investment in some of the underserved communities in and around Chicago.

And we do things from I oversee player hospital visits, staff volunteering, make-a-wish experiences. A lot of the fundraising we do, my team oversees, from the 50-50 raffle to our largest fundraiser, which is our golf outing yearly. And then I get to do a lot of hands-on work with some of our grant recipients when it comes to the anthem and our partnership with the USO of Illinois. So I really get to work across the entirety of the organization and get a lot of great unique relationships with our sponsorship department as well as youth hockey when there's a crossover.

So it's a really hybrid role. And I also run a lot of our players' foundations, so I kind of look after their passions and kind of try to steer them in the right direction on how to implement those because they're obviously very busy. So I'm very lucky to be able to touch a lot of different areas of the organization through the community.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: How has your partnership with Chicago Gay Hockey and other LGBTQ organizations evolved over the years?

ASHLEY HINTON: So the league has now made Pride Night more of a priority on their schedule, but I'm proud to say that we were doing that kind of since the inception of this Hockey is for Everyone model. We've had a great relationship with Chicago Gay Hockey, as well as You Can Play organization. And since then we've really, really spread our wings and have been able to do things at the Center on Halsted with Annie's group, clinics around inclusion, and just really trying to make everyone feel welcome to the sport. We participate in the Pride parade every year alongside Chicago Gay Hockey, as well as You Can Play. And some of our sponsors-- Diageo is a big part of the parade as well.

So I think it's just really a team effort of showing that inclusivity is 365. It's not something we just do one off. And we might have-- we have our game night where we feature these organizations and have them out and get to tell some of these stories. But we definitely have multiple touchpoints outside of that one night that they're featured at the United Center.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Jan is a big vegetable guy, and we follow a lot of that Jonathan Toews and his gardens and his healthy eating initiatives. Could you touch on that?

ASHLEY HINTON: Yeah, absolutely. So Jonathan has the nickname Captain Planet for a reason from some of his teammates that razz on him a little bit. But he's really come full circle in the 13 years that I've seen him. He doesn't really touch anything that is not perfect for him for the most part. So it sometimes makes it annoying to go out to dinner with him. You wonder if you can touch the carbs or not.

But he really saw a vision and a need in Chicago public schools, and he saw a documentary about all the food deserts that were popping up in Chicago and the lack of resources. And there is a guy on a PBS special from the Bronx whose name is Steven Ritz, and he runs a program called Green Bronx Machine. And he said that's who I need to work with. This guy's energy is amazing.

So he started small, and every dollar that has gone into Jonathan's foundation has come from his pocket. And he now is in 60 CPS schools with his Tower Garden program. So we originally started with all schools that were considered food deserts and did not have access to an outside garden. So from that program, we were really able to expose kids who have definitely never been to a Blackhawks game, or maybe even heard of them, and really had first one-on-one access with Jonathan as a human and as a leader in the green initiative and really talking about the importance of healthy eating and the fact that you can do it from any socioeconomic status and really just was accessible to them. And I think that's the biggest thing for a lot of kids that we work with is showing that people care and that people are willing to make the investment in these areas.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: So let me ask a couple of questions to both Ashley and Annie. So [INAUDIBLE]. The first is COVID-- you guys, in terms of the-- are really given a lot of the charge in terms of maintaining the public presence terms for the organization with community relations, fan development in the COVID era. What has been the impact, and could you talk maybe about some of the hockey educational programs that you put in place to kind of keep the brand and the identity active in the community?

ASHLEY HINTON: Yeah, I think I can take the first part of that question. Obviously, we saw a time that no one would have ever braced for or expected. Obviously, I remember in the second period hearing that the NBA was going to be canceled for the rest of the season. I was like, wow, just reacting at the same time as everyone else. But the thing that we knew we needed to do was we set up our at-home working stations and just deployed resources in every way possible that we could to fill the need that we saw out there.

So we had a fundraiser that we did alongside the city of Chicago. We were able to raise over $300,000 towards this fund through the United Way and really deploy those dollars back into Chicago neighborhoods. So that was one arm of what we were really pushing there in the beginning. And then we were like, OK, what do these people need to now transition? They have kids at home. They're trying to work. So we brought along Blackhawks Story Time. We had players reading children's books from wherever they had gone home to and brought these people to everyone's living room who cared to really wrap their arms around this content that we were producing.

My team specifically went around and made sloop bags, where we were dropping off bags and food to first responders, hospitals, and just trying to encourage people in a safe, socially-distanced way, to let them know the Blackhawks behind them. And we felt bad sitting back, so we deployed the best we could by still keeping everyone safe. Annie, I'll kind of let you talk about what was happening at Fifth Third and the transition there.

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, so in addition to all the awesome stuff that Ashley's department was doing in the community, we saw that a lot of the local-- that our 70-plus ring partners were all starting to shut down as well, as needed. And it really left a void for a lot of these youth hockey players and community members to have a safe space or a place to skate. So although we weren't allowed to-- weren't able to do any in-person programming over at Fifth Third, we did develop-- well, it was kind of a time where we were pivoting into the offseason. It was almost our offseason, end of March, and we were starting to pivot into a lot of our offseason programs, which meant kids were starting to get off school for the summer and we were really more hands-on with the kids then. And so we really had to get creative on how we were still going to teach the kids and kind of see their smiling faces as much as we could without actually being able to be near them.

So we developed a program, a virtual hockey academy, very quickly-- like, within a month. We developed a virtual hockey academy and worked with one of our coaches and were able to do kind of Zoom camps, I guess. I know everyone was a little Zoomed out by the summer after being in school for three months on it. But we did have some success there, and we did work with-- we worked very closely not only with Kendall Coyne but also with Jamal Mayers, who is a 2013 Stanley Cup champion, and he's another one of our community liaisons. And we worked with him and some other alumni and retired players-- Brian Campbell, Denis Savard, and everyone kind of-- like Ashley said, everyone just kind of came together and did what they could to help. And so we developed the virtual academy and were allowed to still see kids as much as we could and put some fun spins on it and use Tommy Hawk, of course, because kids love him. So that's what we did on more of the youth hockey fan development side.

Another thing we did more on the grassroots side is we developed a program called Breaking the Ice, which we-- Jamal and Kendall actually recorded, I'd say, six videos each, and it was a little bit about an introduction to hockey. So it was basically our GOAL program gone virtual. And so they developed 30- to 45-minute sessions of stick handling and passing and shooting with a floor hockey stick, and then we launched the programs out. And parents were able to pay-- if they were able to pay $25, you were sent home a kit from Franklin Sports, which is one of our street hockey manufacturers. So you got a home kit, basically, of a ball and net and a stick, and you were able to still learn some form of hockey, either in your living room or your driveway and still have kind of that Blackhawks spin on it.

And then lastly, Jamal also launched one of his books called Hockey Is For Me. Jamal Mayers wrote the book-- gosh, Ash, I don't know, like, maybe the beginning of the year, right before all this. And he was doing some book tours through Ashley's reading-- their reading program that they do. And so he took that virtual as well. And like Ashley had mentioned, a lot of the players were reading books. He actually took his book and read it virtual, and we were able to put that up on our platforms as well.

So we all had to pivot together, I know, as you guys did, too, with being in school. So I think all sports teams did a really great job-- commend everybody that really did a great job and threw all their resources back into the community where it was needed.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: And that kind of leads to my next question. You guys, we're talking-- you've got all of these programs. You guys have probably listed tonight 15, 20 different programs and initiatives that you're doing. Most of it, it seems like it's coming at a local level, and some of it's coming from the league level. What is your process in terms of coming up with these ideas and initiatives? Because you've had to-- some of these things, we're living in such a world now where everything needs to pivot and everything is so quick and today is this and now there's that, and we don't know what the future holds. What's your process for coming up with all these programs?

ASHLEY HINTON: You want to take this, or you want me to, Annie?

ANNIE CAMINS: I would say Ash and I are used to this.


ANNIE CAMINS: 13 years of running around with our hair on fire, I mean, we work on a sports organization. It's fun. It's amazing. We have great ownership and great people that work with us, but this is our day-to-day, like, 80-hour weeks, nights and weekends and 82 games. And you pivot from what-- you develop one program, you run the program, then you shift to the next program. At the same time, you have 8,000 other balls in the air trying to-- and then Ashley's on the player side, so she has all the players calling her, saying, I want to do this for this community or this foundation or this cause. So it's kind of like, in our world, we're used to it.

It's always been this way. It's actually been nice-- I don't know, I'm not speaking for Ashley. But for me, I've been able to step back a little bit. I've been in the sports world for almost 20 years now. And for me to step back and be home and be home on nights and weekends in December and November is like what? So for us, it's given us time to reassess and redevelop a lot of the programs that maybe weren't working and saying, hey, maybe this isn't working. Is this really touching the community the way we wanted it to? Are we really seeing numbers and conversion here? Is this working? Is this not working?

So a lot of it has been strategic planning and just sitting down and taking a step back and saying what's working, what's not working, how can we help the community that we're-- and we're very invested in the community. Ashley does a lot of work on the west side, and we're very invested. So how can we help. in maybe these post-COVID times where economics are a little bit harder for all of us, and maybe there's communities that don't have money or individuals that don't have money that-- how can we use our resources a little bit better than just, in my world, running some glorified youth hockey tournament? How can I use my resources a little bit better now that we're in a different world here?

ASHLEY HINTON: Yeah, I would echo a lot of what Annie said. At first, it started with let's just help everywhere we can, and it was a little trial and error, and realized some things worked, some things didn't in terms of kids being Zoomed out and not really interested in-- whether we took some of our programs, our after-school programs, virtual, our Healthy Hawks program. We really got to analyze what is the need? What do people need from us during this time?

Obviously, everyone became top down, a community relater, because the sport was no longer there. So everyone had a lot of ideas and a lot of creative ideas and thinking of ways to even engage with season ticket holders, all of these parties and investments to reach different needs and really help spread some light during an incredibly difficult time for the entire country and world. And we were all adapting, too, to working at home and also prioritizing what we were doing in the community, but then strategizing for the next season, because a lot of those things needed to still happen. And make goods on sponsorship contracts turned into what can we do from a community perspective.

So it was really interesting. And for myself, personally, as an event planner and that kind of going out the window, having to create six different scenarios for every single thing in the beginning, not knowing what was going to happen, was really time-consuming. So we just had to focus on the now and what we know we could fulfill and really just responding to need the best we could.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Let me ask a question on the fan development side. What do you think-- we're all going through this ten different-- there's so much going on in this country economically, socially, financially, et cetera. How do you think the fans are going to be different when the United Center opens back up? What do you think it's going to feel like?

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, I mean, I'm probably not the best person to ask that. That's maybe more of a ticket sales side of things. But I can speak a little bit about what I think as a fan, because I've been a fan of this game for so long and been to so many games as a fan before I started. But it's going to look different. There's going to be a different comfort level of things. There's going to be probably less people in the building to start would be my guess.

I just think the atmosphere is going to change. I think people are going to be more appreciative when they do go out and get to experience entertainment because we haven't had it in almost a year. And it's a good question. It's so hard to tell. Is it just going to be the same? Is everyone just going to roll in again and the anthem's definitely still going to be awesome.

But other than an amazing anthem, I don't know. How are the players going to respond to it with a couple thousand-- maybe now only a couple thousand fans in the building instead of 20,000? They responded really well when they were in the bubble and they were playing in Edmonton, but how does the future look for all sports, not just the NHL, but how does it look for all sports? And that's just a question that we all have, and it's so hard to predict what that's going to be like.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: The question that my students watching this are going to come at me with tomorrow is what are the opportunities in terms of what do-- right now, it's obviously difficult-- but in terms of long-term, in the next couple of years, opportunities for career advancement? What type of advice would you provide a young student-- a young athlete from Michigan, a sport management student looking to start a career? What advice would you give, and what opportunities do the Hawks-- in a normal situation, what types of opportunities do they have?

ASHLEY HINTON: Yeah, so when I was in college, I obviously put a lot of emphasis on finding an internship. So my first internship was at Florida Gulf Coast University. I went with someone where I knew I would have a free cost of living and worked for free in their athletic department. And I mulched a baseball field. There was nothing glamorous about it. But it was something that was going on the resume and something that I had to talk about. There was obviously more detail to that, but it was really cool to see a school transition to Division I while I was there.

And just a lot of those aspects, whether-- they don't pertain to hockey now, but so much of that is a crossover in sports and really to get a feel for working in a structured workplace because, obviously, I mean, I was a lifeguard before that, so I think any experience you can get is great. I interned with the New England Patriots after that. And I just think exposing yourself as much as you can and really networking and talking to people and, as cheesy as it is, remembering people's names, looking them in the eye, taking business cards, being well-read and being able to contribute when you meet someone is huge.

And you've got to be willing to do the grunt work to get into the sports industry because we obviously all know how competitive it is. And I said-- a lot of times, no one's asked where I went to college for the most part and what my GPA was. It's the impression you leave on them and the work ethic you're willing to put forward is a big thing in sports. And we do have a street team that students can work at in the summer months in Chicago, and it is paid for you go out to a lot of the festivals, work some of the Blackhawks events, like our convention, and really get some exposure to the different departments because that's the other thing I would definitely tell everyone in this class is there's jobs that you didn't even know existed in sports once you kind of get inside and see it's not just sales, it's not just sponsorship, it's not just community. There's data and analytics. There are very targeted people and positions.

So I think if you can get the full scope of things by taking internships, that'd be my biggest advice. And if there is a team you specifically want to align with, then I would join their street team or join their internship program the best you can, because exposure is a big part of sports. Annie, I don't know if you have any other advice.

ANNIE CAMINS: I mean, that's pretty much exactly the same advice that we give people. You got to get in. You got to get your hands wet-- hands dirty, and you just have to do everything. I mean, every single person in our front office has a story about how they started, and it wasn't like, oh, just put into an office and given a cell phone and getting good salary. No, that's not how I works. I started with the LA Kings making-- I don't even want to tell you guys what I was making, but it was not a lot of money. I was calling home asking for rent from my parents. You couldn't afford anything.

I was driving this big truck, box truck called the Chariot, and we would go to different community centers and YMCAs and open the back of the box truck and pull out a little mini Styrofoam kind of foam rink with street hockey sticks and try to teach kids the sport, and then we'd ask them, name one player on the team, and they had no idea. But they enjoyed it, and hopefully they went home and said that, hey, maybe I want to try this sport. But it definitely wasn't glamorous. I was cleaning out storage units in the not-so-good parts of Los Angeles in these storage units, trying to get hockey gear sorted.

And it's just like the dirty work you do. And it's not always the glamorous, like, oh, my gosh, you work for the Blackhawks. You work in the front office. It's pretty amazing, but you definitely have to work hard to get there. And as you know, probably most people in our office have been here 10-plus years. So Ashley and I are both going into our 13th year. So it's like, once you're in, unless you're in a really bad situation, you're not going anywhere because you're very loyal and very committed to the team. You work a lot. You work a lot of hours, so you better love it or it's not for you.

But like Ashley said, the best advice is just get in the door and do anything because you don't know what you're going to fall in love with. You might think that you want to do community relations or marketing or ticket sales, but then you end up falling in love with the hockey ops department or social media or whatever it may be. So it's just such-- there's so many so many opportunities. If you don't actually strap the skates on and play, there's so many opportunities in pro sports.

And a lot of our colleagues have come from the minor leagues. The gentleman that I hired, Spencer, came from the Portland Pirates in Maine, and he was working for a minor-league hockey team and basically just took the job, didn't even, like-- hadn't even ever been to Chicago before and got in his car and just took the chance, and this is seven years later. So the best advice for any of you is just to meet people. Get on LinkedIn like you do and make those connections because it's very much a relationship business. And it's all who you know and working-- the hockey world is a very, very-- Jan will know, the hockey world's a very, very small world. So it's all about who you know and staying connected in your community and absolutely loving what you do. You have to love what you do.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: I'm a little inspired. Ashley's got her Christmas tree up.


MIKE RAYCRAFT: You've got your Christmas tree up.

ASHLEY HINTON: It's a little early, little early.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: And I saw that, and I'm thinking I'll bet you-- this is in November-- I bet this is the first November in the history of hockey that Ashley has had her Christmas tree up at this time. And so-- and you guys mentioned this-- both of you mentioned this-- is the work life. It's a brutal schedule, right? It's brutal with the home games, and I remember watching you guys.

And when you win, those years you won the cup, it must have seemed-- it just goes from one-- there is no break. You'd think there was no offseason. As soon as you won it in June, that cup was marching around the world up until the first of October, and then the season starts. And so the more you win, the worse it gets in terms of your work life.

ANNIE CAMINS: Well, you know what, though? We work for the games. We always say, like, yeah, we work 9:00 to 5:00, but then from 7:00 to 11:00 PM, I mean, 20,000 of our favorite people are in the building that night. And so that's who you work for. As exhausting as it is, and 5:00, 6:00, 7 o'clock rolls around and you're still at your desk or you're still in the office, it's a good thing we work with people that we absolutely cherish and we all get along really well. But once you when you step into the United Center and listen to Jim Cornelison sing the anthem and watch the players on the ice and look at the crowd and-- I mean, that's what you work for. So yes, the season's long and there's a lot of games, but playoffs is everything. If you don't make playoffs, it's-- I mean, it's everything. Ash will tell you, she was two years into her job and we won in 2010, and I think she was just handed the bulk of the cup that year. So I think that was probably her hardest year. You probably worked 80 hours a week that year, Ash. But she was basically in charge of getting the cup schedule and the players-- to every single player that had the cup for a day, right, Ash?

ASHLEY HINTON: Which sounds a little like, poor me, but like--

ANNIE CAMINS: She froze.

ASHLEY HINTON: When you're looking at [INAUDIBLE] and you only have 100 days with it, it's a blessing and a curse, but I would take that blessing every day. I also put up my tree while watching the Masters. I think that's the only time in life I will ever do that.

Very unique circumstances we're all living in, but kind of to echo what Annie said, the appetite for sports is stronger than ever. So I think it's really seizing these opportunities of being an active community member and really, really engaging, and it makes the long hours worth it. I feel like we scared you guys to work in sports there for a second, but it really is so rewarding at the end of the day. To see these children's face light up or learn something new for the first time on the ice or literally just thinking that someone cares about their communit, it makes all the long hours worth it

MIKE RAYCRAFT: And when you won it in 2015, the Blackhawks were kind enough to-- the Stanley Cup was a guest at our symposium that year, and so I spent one day with the Stanley Cup. And at the end of the day, I don't think I've ever been more exhausted in my life in terms of the cameras and the people and it just never-- it went on. I cannot imagine doing it for 100 days.

And I thought about it a lot since we've been in this COVID situation in terms of-- I mean, the Stanley Cup and that tour has been such a great thing for hockey in terms of it shows up and the cup never complains and you can take pictures four hours a day. And you don't have to worry about vegetables or meat or anything else. It's just there. But that whole experience is probably going to change a lot here in terms of how they use the cup as a marketing community tool.

ASHLEY HINTON: That is-- yeah, that is the sad part. I saw some photos after Tampa won this year, and they were at a children's hospital, but everyone was socially distanced, and no one's touching the cup. No one's touching the players that are next to the cup. Everyone's got a mask on.

I used to say that if you haven't seen the Stanley Cup and you live in Illinois, you're not trying because--


ASHLEY HINTON: --down to the hour. Yeah, and people would be like, oh, like are you here? And I'm like, absolutely not. I'm as far away from this trophy as possible. I'm on to the next day's schedule, making sure the car service is set.

But I do think-- I hope it doesn't change the access. I think people are aware of how historic and meaningful that trophy is. It has such a great legacy behind it. And the fact that there is only one real Stanley Cup, and the one that also is very authentic is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. So I think it's the people's trophy, and I think that that's what makes it so special. So I hope they can find a way around that.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Well the beauty of that-- I mean, the baseball trophy is so delicate. You can't-- it's got the little flags. And the cup-- when they won, they brought it to Champaign, and it is so delicate if you look at it cross-eyed, it's going to break. And the cup is just so strong, and you've seen it in just so many crazy places and it's just been such a such a fun symbol and what a great tool they've come up with. It's a celebrity on its own.

ASHLEY HINTON: Yeah. If that trophy could talk, we'd be in trouble. So no, but it's good.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: I mean, even the guy in the white gloves became a famous personality on top of it. And so you've got everybody around it is famous.

ANNIE CAMINS: Yeah, I think he's writing a book, right? Or didn't he write a book, Ash? The cup keeper?


ANNIE CAMINS: I think he's got some stories.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Oh, I'll bet he has some stories.


MIKE RAYCRAFT: That one's for the next session. Well, this was great. Thank you guys so much for your time tonight. I appreciate your openness and tenderness. And really, congratulations for what you guys are doing. The city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and hockey for the region, we're really proud of what you're doing. So thank you so much. It's such an impressive conversation, and thank you for your time tonight.

ANNIE CAMINS: Well, thank you for having us, Mike. We appreciate it.

ASHLEY HINTON: And to your students, we're very accessible. You can find both of our emails on the website if you ever have any questions or-- anyway we could be of help, don't hesitate to reach out.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: My guess is you'll be getting a few notes here this week.

ANNIE CAMINS: No problem.

ASHLEY HINTON: Be patient. You know I know how.

MIKE RAYCRAFT: Well, thank you guys. Have a great holiday.

ANNIE CAMINS: Same to you.

JAN PODGORNI: Thank you, Annie. Thank you, Ashley. Thank you.

ANNIE CAMINS: Thanks a lot.




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