Andi Perelman grew up in Pittsburgh with a Canadian father, so it’s only natural that she would watch lots of hockey and love it.
That she’s managed to make a career out of watching hockey games is far less expected. “I wanted to be a lawyer,” she says, explaining that though she was a huge hockey fan, she never realized “that there were opportunities in that …” she breaks off with a laugh and says, “I want to say arena, but that feels so funny. But yeah, I never realized that there were opportunities that weren’t player focused.” Instead, she studied politics as an undergraduate and decided that she would work in contract law, perhaps with a focus on sports contracts, and so she enrolled in a Sports Industry Management Master’s program at Georgetown.
While there, she realized that “when I was studying government, I really liked seeing how candidates marketed themselves,” and also felt drawn to the social media aspect of big campaigns. After that, “I kind of fell into it. My schooling and my interests … combined.”
She was told that getting a job in sports would mostly be about “be[ing] at the right place in the right time” which, Perelman says, she “hated” hearing. But, she says, she decided that she would “have everything set up so that if something popped up, I would be ready and be the best candidate possible.” So she blogged about the Penguins, connected with her former boss on LinkedIn, spoke to as many people in Penguins management as she could, and waited.
One day, her former boss posted that there was an opening for a job in the Penguins front office, and Perelman applied. She describes the process as “pretty intense,” meeting with “people in our content team, people who were writing for our website, people in new media, marketing, a couple of different VPs, our COO, our CFO. But” she says, “when you’re working in social, you’re touching so many different departments, so they wanted to make sure that I was somebody that everybody could get along with.”
She started as the new media coordinator in January 2014, which, she says, means that she runs all of the different social media platforms that represent the Penguins. “So we have a huge team that’s producing content, and I take that content, which is videos, stories, GIFs, graphics, info graphics, and I put it together and then find the best way to get it out to fans.”
The need in today’s day and age for a near-constant presence on social media means that Perelman is very busy. Although the office observes traditional hours, work often bleeds into other times of the day, like when the team is playing a game. Then, the new media team will be at Consol Energy Center from 8:30 in the morning until around midnight, to cover both the game and post-game action. Though “it’s pretty intense,” Perelman says it’s fun as well, and “there’s a huge team of people there, and we’re all kind of working together to get out the content … so it’s not like I’m the only one that’s here.” Things get exponentially more intense when the Penguins are playing away games on the East Coast, when Perelman is working pretty much nonstop “from 10:30 until probably 3, 4 the next morning.”
Sometimes her job necessitates traveling with the team, which is happening “more and more as time goes on and social becomes a bigger thing,” though she mainly covers big-name events such as the NHL draft and All-Star Game as well as the playoffs. The exception to that are “rivalry games, where it makes sense that we can kind of hype it up a little bit more.” Perelman says that she gets to be in the midst of all the action because “fans want to be. It’s definitely a lot of fun.”
Mostly though, she works from Pittsburgh, watching all the games from the arena itself, and she’ll attend some practices and “go into the locker room occasionally, if something big is happening, if there’s a social media promotion or contest or something where we need information from the players. And I’m almost always there for coaches’ press conferences.”
Perelman says that being a woman with a high profile sports management position doesn’t put her at a disadvantage and cites Jennifer Bullano, the Penguins’ head of PR, and the first female ever to hold that position across the NHL as evidence that the Penguins incorporate women into their team. But they aren’t merely token hires or empty moves at diversification. “I work with a lot of women at the Penguins, women that have played hockey, women that know the sport in and out, and women that are just really good at what they do.”
Though the job carries a lot of pressure, Perelman says that it “keeps me on my game. I know if I mess something up, that’s really not good for the whole team.” She says that the constant nature of social media means “you have to be on your game all the time. Being on social, you just have to be so careful about the timing of content, thinking about what you’re saying, how it comes off to fans and followers and even opposing teams and their fans. Knowing that you’re constantly under the microscope and the voice of a gigantic brand, you don’t want to mess that up.”
Despite the challenges, Perelman says, “This is my dream job. Just being able to watch hockey and be a part of this team is really exciting for someone that grew up in Pittsburgh as a hockey fan.”
Masha Shollar is an intern for The Chronicle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.