It’s that time of year again in the State of Hockey – hockey day in Minnesota was a little over a month ago, girls and boys high school hockey tournaments have recently crowned their victors, and the Wild are once again fighting for their well-deserved spot in the playoffs throughout this last stretch of the NHL season.

As somebody who has worked in the past for professional sports teams and is still currently part-time with the Minnesota Twins, I understand there is more to the professional sports industry than just winning and losing. Most fans and even some players just entering their first few years don’t realize there needs to be a strong business side to sports in order for the teams to win and lose; they need staff getting the fans back in the seats no matter how the team’s season is going. To get a deeper look at professional sports from the business side, I caught up with Minnesota Wild front office PR staff member, Ryan Stanzel, to give us a better insight from the Wild’s perspective.

Can you give me a little background about you – where you went to college, what your degree is in, how long you have worked for the NHL and the Minnesota Wild specifically, and what do you do for the Minnesota Wild?

I got my degree in journalism from Wingate University in North Carolina. Despite the fact I’ve been doing PR in hockey since 2001, and in the NHL since 2007, I never took a PR class. It pays to be well-rounded and have experience in different things. I worked in ECHL Louisiana 2001-03, AHL Houston 2003-07 and Minnesota from 2007-now. Both of those other teams were Wild affiliates so I’ve been in the MSE family for 13 years.

Minnesota is the state of hockey and business, working on the business side of hockey, what comparisons or similarities do you see between the two that make each other either a strong team/company?

The Wild is entrenched in the community – both our front office and hockey operations. Our front office has a mentoring program with a local elementary school (that I head up), and we also sponsor a reading contest throughout Minnesota. Players make countless visits to children’s hospitals, food banks and other community initiatives.

How much do you feel leadership impacts a company and a team? How about the impact of different levels of leadership (gm, coach, captain and CEO, manager/directors, supervisors)?

From the bottom up, everyone looks up to a good leader, both on the business side and the hockey side. At the same time, managers in between those levels are key because they’re the ones you interact with on a daily basis.

Are there any attributes of running a business you think should be applied to running a hockey team? How about the other way around – any tactics used to run a hockey team that should be used to run a business?

My motto is “just get it done” which many who come to sports from other businesses don’t necessarily understand. We are a unique business – what works in health care, pharmaceutical sales, the business world, doesn’t necessarily work in hockey. We work 60-70 hour work weeks, so nothing is traditional.

Hockey players are in continuous training to gain strength and better current skills, and also, continually learning new skills, plays, etc. to always make themselves more well-rounded, stronger players; do the Wild encourage their employees to take advantage of educational opportunities to keep current skills fresh and to learn new skills?

The Wild occasionally holds “lunch and learns” where departments give brief presentations on what they do to other people in the organization. I’d say there’s generally a bit of a “disconnect” in sports (not with the Wild in particular, just overall), everyone wants to say they work a lot of hours, they work harder than everyone else. We all have particular challenges. It helps to see how the other side lives and what other departments do.

What was the reaction to the MN Wild staff when Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were both announced to be wearing the “C” and “A” on their jerseys this Olympics?

I don’t think any of us were surprised because they’re great human beings.

What did you think Zach’s leadership would bring to Team USA? Had someone else been chosen, do you think it would make a difference on the team or not?

I think USA coach Dan Bylsma said it best, Parise is flat out tenacious and won’t give up. A private person generally, he allowed us to use a social campaign for the “Manuary” contest because he wanted the money for Children’s Hospital. He won’t take no for an answer, on or off the ice.

Why do you think Minnesota continually has the most men on Team USA every winter Olympic season?

Because we raise not only good hockey players but players who play the game the right way.

What does the State of Hockey mean to you?

It means a sold out crowd, people knowing who even I am if I’m out in public, it means support in all areas no matter what you need.


 

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