For the first time since March of 2020, the fans were allowed inside Rogers Place in Edmonton to watch the Oilers play in a regular season game. Over 16,000 people came through the turnstiles to watch the Oilers beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in a shootout last Thursday (October 14th), and among those in attendance was North Bay native Jake Tougas.
Although, Tougas wasn’t there as a spectator, as the West Ferris Trojans alumni now works for the Oilers Entertainment group.
“It’s a bit of a different experience to be a part of an opening day game as someone who is working because you are trying to make sure certain things are getting done,” says Tougas.
“However, there is a certain atmosphere that you can really feel, there’s an energy that goes through the place, especially with nobody allowed in the stands for over a year. it was really great to see fans back in the building.”
Tougas is a Partnership Specialist for the company that also owns the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League and the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.
“I have a portfolio of partners and my job is to take care of them on a day-to-day basis and make sure that all their assets and their creatives are involved where they want them to be,” he says.
“Whether it is in the rink such as the rink boards or the halos around the perimeters or the video walls or even things out in the community. I’m usually on the phone or answering emails most of the day and making sure they are happy with how things are running.”
Tougas has been living in Edmonton for a month and has been enjoying every minute of it.
“It’s pretty cool to have your office right next to Rogers Place where the Oilers play,” he says.
“There was a bit of a culture shock when I first got here, the COVID-19 protocols are a little different in Alberta than in Ontario, but that meant we could be in the office working. It’s nice to be in an office and not working from home, getting to be face to face with people, wearing masks still of course, but still getting to see them in person has been great. We also have the hybrid option to work from home every few days if we want. The office itself is pretty cool; they have a lot of neat memorabilia around.”
The journey to Edmonton started when Tougas enrolled in the Sports and Event Marketing program at George Brown.
“I was trying to find the best way to get back into sports from a business side of things and not from the playing side and I was always interested in marketing,” says Tougas.
“It was a one-year post-grad program that is highly accredited across Canada for people that are looking to get into sports events and marketing. It gave me a really good jump after my four years at Laurier to give me the educational background I needed to land this job.”
Following the one-year program, Tougas was an intern at Cosmo Sports and Entertainment in Mississauga, which he says was all virtual.
“But it was a great place to have an internship, I learned a lot there. From there I was just applying for jobs and just looking for anything that was involved with MLSE or a professional sports team around North America. I wasn’t going to limit myself to anywhere because it is a tough market to get into,” says Tougas.
He adds he leaned on another North Bayite who is working at the National Hockey League headquarters in Toronto, Scott Rodgers.
“I want to give a shout out to Scott Rodgers,” says Tougas. “I did apply for a job with the NHL and he was a great resource for me to learn about best practices and different things teams are looking for and we had a great chat on just how to break into what is a very tight sports world. I leaned on him quite a bit toward the end of my internship to give me a confidence boost on where I was heading.”
Tougas says he ended up getting an interview chance with the Oilers Entertainment group shortly after his internship.
“I got lucky enough that they liked me during the interview process and wanted to hire me and so I packed up and moved halfway across the country,” he says.
He says the day-to-day role of a Partnership Specialist extends to game days.
“During the game itself, I’m in the media area making sure things are running properly whether it's during TV timeouts or during intermissions or anything where our partners need to have their assets activated,” says Tougas.
“We also work with the broadcast partners with Sportsnet and the radio station. Anything that that can get our partners out in the market, that’s where we come in to play and making sure that it is all getting done for them.”
He says there is a huge market of areas that teams and partners collaborate on for exposure that continues to evolve with social media.
“Social media also plays a part in that with things like 'goal of the game' that gets sponsored through those avenues,” says Tougas.
He adds there are many different roles within Sports Marketing as well.
“There’s about seven or eight of us that are working in the specialist partnership team, but there’s another department that’s involved in sales, and then there’s ticket sales and management and human resources and the event staff team and the game day digital crew. There is an incredible amount of moving parts in the backend that I don’t think people realize makes these games more of an event than anything else.”
Tougas continues, “There’s a lot more to it than just playing a hockey game. I’m learning on a day-to-day basis just how many people are involved in the various different facets and it’s a crazy amount.”
Tougas says the business side of the sports world is a great option for people who want to be involved in the industry beyond their days of actually playing the game.
“When I was growing up I played a ton of different sports and you dream about making it to the pros as a player but the reality is the odds are just stacked against you because it's an even tougher market to get into than working on the business side or behind the scenes in sports,” says Tougas.
“I think it’s an avenue where if you love sports and it’s a huge part of your life, I would recommend it being something you should look into.”
Tougas says he’s also looking to give back to his community if there happen to be aspiring students with ambitions of entering the industry.
“I would love to be a source for anyone that is interested in getting into this line of work,” he says.
“It’s difficult but I know North Bay is a pretty diehard sports town, so if anyone is looking to find a route to getting connected with a sports team on the business side, I am more than happy to connect with people and give back some time just like Scott Rodgers gave to me.”
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