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Our J-Term Sports Journey

January 30, 2020

MGT 675T: Introduction to Sports Management

We’re breaking tradition here on the J-Term blog! Erin Otto and Jack Grossman worked together to compile their short but eventful tour across the Upper Midwest. The study tour introduced the students to sports management through the lens of sports executives and other professionals in the business. Prior to heading out on their tour of the Upper Midwest several executives and other sports professionals spoke with the class.J-Term 2020 Sports Management


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James Diamond is the head coach of Women’s Cross Country at Rockford University (IL). He was the first person the class was introduced to. James graduated from Carthage in 2017 and is now building the cross country program at Rockford. He explained how he plans to continue to grow and develop his organization. He shared a great story of putting values and leadership first. 


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Mark Pachinni is a member of the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Wild and former President of Foote Cone, and Belding Advertising. He explained his role as a board member as well as some insight into what to expect from our trip to the Wild. He also talked about what it takes to be a leader in all aspects of life.


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Jason Langwell is the Executive Vice President for Intersport. He brought great energy to the class and talked about having a “T like personality.” Jason is the mind behind the Quicken Loans National PGA Detroit tournament. He also developed the Rocket Mortgage Super Bowl Squares game that millions of people across the country will be playing on Super Bowl Sunday.

Chicago Blackhawks

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Our day in Chicago started with a tour of the United Center. We had the opportunity to not only see the ice, but also the new corporate offices that are now connected to the arena. The new space still allows all employees to feel like they are just as important to the team as each player on the ice. 

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Jillian Smith, a Carthage graduate, hosted our day in Chicago. She works as the Director of Executive Administration at the Blackhawks. We had a fantastic meeting with Jillian.  Afterwards, we talked with many other executives about their role in the franchise. This included the team’s president, John McDonough, Jay Blunk (Executive Vice President), Chris Werner (VP of ticketing and customer relations), Adam Kempenarr (Executive Director of Digital Content), and Steve Waight (VP of Corporate Sponsorship). This was our first deep dive into what goes into building and maintaining a professional sports franchise. 

John McDonough spent the morning with us explaining why he left a successful career at the Chicago Cubs to take over the rebuilding of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008. He encourages hard work and has completely transformed the culture of the Blackhawks organization.

The Road to Minnesota

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A 6:00 AM wake-up call did not affect our excitement to jump on the bus to St. Paul!

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The moment we stepped foot into the offices of the Xcel Energy Center, we felt a huge warm welcome from every person we met.

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The first full day in Minnesota was spent at the Xcel Energy Center - home of the Minnesota Wild Hockey Team. The class met a long list of executives who help make the team what it is today. Through presentations and asking questions, we were able to learn about different departments and their roles on a daily basis. The class then shadowed different individuals to experience different departmental responsibilities during two NHL games.

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Sam, Jack, and Jack listen as Jamie Spencer explains his role as it pertains to business development and creating non-hockey related revenues. We learned about how important incorporating the St. Paul community and the entire state of Minnesota is to the success of the Wild brand.

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Four classmates (Chris, Jake, Erin, and Ben) in front of the ice. This group spent the first night shadowing fan relations. Fan relations includes responsibilities such as ticket help at the front gates, helping season ticket holders, and handling the Wild Rewards program. 

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One perk of shadowing fan relations was being a part of what the Wild call “The Patch.” Every game, one player and one season ticket holder are chosen. The season ticket holders get to watch the team walk into the locker room after warm-ups and one player, in this case Eric Staal, comes off the ice, takes off his uniform, and signs it for the lucky ticket holders. While we were there, Staal was recognized and celebrated for his 1000th career NHL point.

Our Day of Baseball

On the second day of our journey, we filled our agenda with plans to meet with executives from the St. Paul Saints as well as the Minnesota Twins.

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In the morning, we visited CHS Field, the home of the St. Paul Saints. The St. Paul Saints are Minnesota’s Independent League Baseball Team. We met with Derek Sharrer and his executive team. They told us what it is like being an independent minor league team in a big-league market. With five major sports teams in the same area, the Saints are challenged to find ways to draw a crowd. To fill up their seats, they use unique marketing strategies that are kid-friendly and make a one of a kind, fun experience for all fans who attend.

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After lunch we traveled down to Target Field - home of the Minnesota Twins - in Minneapolis and visited with Laura Day and her executive team. During our time with the Twins, we made sure to ask as many questions as we could.

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Tuesday night we all went out to dinner as a group and were joined by President John Swallow and Carthage Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Tom Kline.

Wild! Wild! Wild!

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After our morning meeting with Craig Leipold - the owner of the Minnesota Wild - more job shadowing, and a meeting with Bill Guerin - the Wild’s General Manager, Jamie Spencer led us on a tour around the TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center. The TRIA Rink is the Wild’s practice facility and is open to the community. It hosts many events such as open skates, adult leagues, youth teams, and other tournaments.

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Inside the Minnesota Wild locker room at TRIA Rink. The center opened two years ago in January 2018.

Minnesota United

On Thursday morning we switched things up a bit and visited Allianz field - home of the  Minnesota United. The United is a very young MLS franchise with a new stadium they fill with energy for every one of their 17 home games. We talked with CEO Chris Wright, CRO Bryant Pfeiffer, and the VP of corporate sponsorships Katie Mattis. They all displayed a powerful message of “knowing your why” and “knowing your values.”

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Inside the Minnesota United locker room. Allianz Field just opened in February 2019, two years after MN United debuted in the MLS.

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Wrapping Up with the Wild

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We finished our week-long sports journey with the Wild on Thursday afternoon. We had the opportunity to debrief and talk about all we learned on the trip. Highlights: The opportunity to understand all the business aspects of a sports operation, networking with executives in multiple sports, and realizing the amazing opportunity that this class was for each student. The Wild were excellent hosts and we are very grateful for Craig and Matt’s willingness to help.

All of the executives we met on the trip want to see Carthage students succeed.

The learning continued as we met with the Milwaukee Bucks and Paul Gagliardi, the owner of Team Fire, a professional Esports team, a great way to wrap up the study tour!


About the Midwest Tour


Jan. 20-24, 2020


Management and Marketing Prof. Greg Barron
Management and Marketing Prof. Jennifer Madden


The objective of this course was to introduce sports management through the lens of sports executives and other business professionals. While on campus, the class was introduced to three sports-minded executives before our study tour in Minnesota. As a class, we spent a day with the Chicago Blackhawks organization, three days with the Minnesota Wild executive team, a morning with the Minnesota United, and a day of baseball with the St. Paul Saints and Minnesota Twins. 


Erin Otto, Jack Grossman