The Portland Winter Hawks have hired Jerry Moss in the front office with the title of Director of Fan Relations. I had a chance to sit down with Jerry yesterday and get his thoughts on his new role with the team…here they are:
AK: First off, Jerry, welcome to the Winter Hawks organization…why don’t you fill the fans in on your background…
JM: Well, I’ve lived in Oregon for the past 25 years and the last 21 years I’ve been in retail – but it has been a wide variety of retail – everything from managing stores to marketing and I’ve also handled the sponsorships of sports teams up and down the West Coast.
Then I worked for the Portland Trail Blazers for just under 11 years, and I was the director of special events and my skill set and my attitude kept moving me towards fan and community relations and I was the Director of Fan Relations and the Community Outreach Director with the Blazers. My responsibility was to connect with the fans and community and enhance that relationship.
It is an exciting time for me to be part of this organization.
AK: What do you envision your role being with the Portland Winter Hawks?
JM: First off, I am a huge, huge fan of hockey, and I hope the fans won’t hold this against me, but I grew up in Seattle and was a fan of the Seattle Totems in the old Western League. And for those of us old enough to remember, those games with Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were absolutely phenomenal. There were people who would come to games who were from the East Coast and they were floored by the level of play and the hockey atmospheres in those cities. That is where my love for hockey comes from. There is such a rich tradition of hockey in the Northwest and I am excited to be a part of that.
As far as my role with the Winter Hawks – it is multi-faceted and I love it that way. My main concern will be finding ways to connect with the fans. If you’re not a member of the booster club, I would highly recommend you join that organization, we’re going to put some effort into growing our relationship – not only our working relationship, but our overall relationship with that group. They’re the backbone and a main connection to our fan base.
I’m also going to go after schools and try and get in front of young people and try to grow that part of our fan base, because I know that once they see it and get a taste of it – they’ll be hooked. Simply because hockey is the best sport to see live.
I’m also going to spend a lot of time working with different community organizations like the Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis Clubs in the community.
But, most of all, I’m going to spend a great deal of time at the games, being elbow-to-elbow with our fans making sure that their experience is all that it can be. There are some great traditions in Portland and I will do what I can to enhance and expand those for the fans of the Portland Winter Hawks.
AK: Coming from a professional league like the NBA, and moving to the WHL with a smaller profile, what do you see as the challenges when meeting with the community at-large and discussing the Portland Winter Hawks?
JM: It is a shift, no doubt, and I’ll have to spend some time educating people on the league and the team. They don’t know about the kids in the uniforms, and once they do know just who is in those uniforms, they will look at it in a totally different light.
When you’re in the NBA, the players are fairly insulated from the average Joe in the seats. And, the average Joe in the seats sitting in the 300 level, they are still rabid fans – they love the team and the players – but they just don’t have the personal connection that they would love to have.
With the Winter Hawks situation, there are far fewer barriers to the players on the ice. In fact, the young men wearing the uniforms love getting to know the fans in the seats. That is something that is unique and special and it just can’t be matched by the Major Leagues.
AK: With now two talk sports stations in town – one on the AM dial and one on the FM dial – do you see the Winter Hawks trying to get more of a presence on those talk radio shows?
JM: I see there are two sides of the fence with these radio talk shows – on the one side, these stations give the fans great local sports coverage, as well as the national sports, which is critical, and on the other side, we can provide them with local sports stories and information on the team and what the Winter Hawks are all about.
It is a big goal of mine to get the Winter Hawks in their mind set. I want to be able to take players and coaches with me and let the fans hear what they’re like. The people at the stations are pros and they know how to get behind the uniform and I think they will be pleasantly surprised by the hockey people in this organization and they will want more. We have such a high caliber of people in our players and coaching staff, not to mention Ken Hodge, our GM who is so highly regarded in this league. We should have more of a presence on these stations and I will work hard to make that happen
AK: When it comes to game night operations, what are some of your thoughts on improving the atmosphere for our fans for home games?
JM: There are a number of things that we want to do. First off, you have to remember that this isn’t like a NBA game where maybe the first 50-100 rows are, most likely, corporate seats where it is hard sometimes to get the fan reaction that you want for exciting plays. You don’t have to worry about that with hockey fans.
At Winter Hawk games, fans will react when an exciting or amazing play happens and that is fun, and that means passion. Tapping that passion at games is something that we need to do, and we need to encourage that type of reaction. So, we are looking at ways that will draw from the passion of the fans.
We know that the players feed off the passion of the fans and the fans feed off the passion of the players. It is a cycle and one that we want to breed within our organization. Going to a hockey game is not like going to oral surgery, or to a movie. You may remember seeing a movie, but won’t remember the fine details two to three years down the road. Hockey fans remember amazing plays from 20 years ago and enjoy sharing those memories with those around them in the stands.
As we get closer to the season, I want to encourage fans to send their comments and suggestions on how the Winter Hawks can enhance the fan experience at our games to my e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to all of them. It may not be instantaneous, but I will respond. I want to know what you think, I want to know your opinions and I want to know you, the fan.
The season is fast approaching and it’s going to be wild. In fact, I am going to call our home games “Wild Night”. I can’t wait for the puck to drop…
Welcome to the team, Jerry…