So, you want to be THE PR man for an NHL franchise? I recently had the chance to chat with Rich Nairn, Senior Director of Media Relations for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Rich shares how he broke into the business, changes he’d make to the NHL, his fondest hockey memory and more. Take a few minutes and meet one of the best PR guys in the business…
PondRocket: Rich, can you describe your responsibilities as the Senior Director of Media Relations with the Phoenix Coyotes?
Rich Nairn: Basically, I oversee all communications for the Phoenix Coyotes and serve as the primary spokesperson for the team. My job is to try and generate as much positive media coverage for the team as possible. PR: Can you briefly talk about your background and how you got your start in professional hockey?RN: I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and after graduating from the University of North Dakota with a communications degree, I was fortunate to get an opportunity to work for my hometown team, the Winnipeg Jets. After a few seasons, I was named Director of Media Relations and was one of 13 staff members who were chosen to move to Phoenix to help launch the Coyotes in 1996. Working for the Jets/Coyotes was/is my dream job and I love every minute of it. PR: You have a position that many people would want, or at least think they want. Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into media relations with a sports team?RN: I love my job and I appreciate how lucky I am to have it. Working in sports and PR is exciting and challenging but the hours are very long. You have to be very dedicated and love what you do in order to stay with it. When I started with the Jets, I volunteered for a full season. You have to pay your dues to get your foot in the door and if you work hard, you will get rewarded. At the end of the day, you have to have a passion for what you do. PR: What would a typical day at the office? RN: My day revolves around the team. It consists of lining up radio, TV and print interviews for the team for the week ahead. I handle a number of media inquiries and requests but the majority of my time is spent on being proactive and pitching stories to the media to generate coverage. There is a lot of interaction with players, coaches, management and media and lots of emails and phone calls. PR: What’s the toughest part of your job? And the best part?RN: The toughest part is knowing that when the team doesn't play well, you will receive negative coverage and you can't control it. The best and most rewarding part is when you work hard pitching a story and it results in great coverage for the organization and you feel good because you made a difference. I also get to watch lot of NHL hockey games which isn't so bad. PR: Alright, you are the Commish for the day and you can make one change in the NHL to make it better…what is it and why?RN: Although we have a great national TV partner in Versus, I think it would benefit the NHL to be back on ESPN so that our great game could be seen in every home, bar and hotel in the United States. I think it would be beneficial for our game if there was a way to continue to keep Versus (which does an outstanding job) and add ESPN as a national broadcast partner.PR: What is your favorite NHL city to visit? RN: My favorite NHL city to visit and watch a hockey game is Montreal. All the Canadian cities are great but Montreal is special. There is always a buzz in the air and tremendous excitement around the game. If you are a hockey fan, you need to see a game at the Bell Centre. It's a religious experience. PR: What is your most memorable hockey moment?
RN: My most memorable hockey moment...that's tough. I have been very fortunate to see so many games and be a part of so many great experiences. 1) Last game played at Winnipeg Arena. It was part funeral, part celebration. So many tears and emotions. 2) WhiteOuts in Winnipeg Arena. Incredible crowds....deafening noise. 3) WhiteOuts in America West Arena. I never thought fans could duplicate the passion and spirit that Winnipeggers have for hockey. Phoenix fans proved me wrong. Incredible. PR: Without naming names, what is the best practical joke you’ve witnessed on the road?RN: Too many to mention! PR: PondRocket is inspired by the passion and tradition of the game. What is your favorite hockey tradition and why?RN: My favorite hockey tradition is when players from both teams shake hands after a hard fought playoff series. There is nothing else like it in pro sports. Both teams try to kill each other during the series and then as a sign of respect and sportsmanship shake hands despite their hard feelings.
Rich, I cannot thank you enough for your time. It is always great to catch up and share a behind the scenes glimpse into a front office position in the NHL. Best of luck to you and the Phoenix Coyotes.
PondRocket is a designer and marketer of branded hockey apparel inspired by the passion and tradition of the game. The Company’s products are sold throughout the US and Canada and are worn by all levels of players with appreciation for the lifestyle that the game of hockey provides. In addition to creating superior apparel, PondRocket partners with hockey oriented 501 (c) (3) organizations to assist the introduction and growth of the sport.