By: Cullen McIntyre, Sports Editor
Hockey has been a tradition in the city of Portland, when the first franchise of the Maine Mariners was founded in 1977. The original Mariners have since left the city, making way for the Portland Pirates, who in turn followed suit.
Portland’s hockey team is now the second iteration of the Maine Mariners, playing in the East Coast Hockey League. The Mariners are affiliated with the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, and feature some of the Rangers future prospect.
For many, going to a Mariners game in Portland is more than just about watching the game. Throughout the game, fans can participate in events on and off the ice. For Emily Saunders, a senior sport management major, the events are the game.
Saunders is the captain of the promotional team for the Maine Mariners. The promotional team runs all of the in-game contests as well as anything before or after the game. The team runs the behind the scenes work for the entertainment side of the Mariners, as well as holding all of the events during the game.
Saunders, as the captain, has a larger role within the team: “As the captain I’ll come into our promo-team meeting before games, assign roles and tasks for the other team members, and I will come in and make sure they know what they need to do and where they need to go,” she said. “Basically I’m the promo-teams person to reach out to if they have any questions and just make sure everything runs smoothly.”
Being captain, Saunders must make sure the events put on throughout the day go smoothly. The promo-team also hosts events specific to games, as the team has a promotional calendar consisting of events like “Marvel Superhero Night” to “Teddy Bear Toss Night”. In game events can range from a t-shirt toss, to “Chuck-a-Tomato”.
The events can bring stress to the job, as Saunders speaks about the biggest event they put on each home game, “Chuck-a-Tomato is the most high-intensity event. It’s our second intermission promotion so you’re getting little styrofoam tomatoes thrown at you. They try to pick winners through Portland Pie as a sponsor, and you’ll win a pizza if you get second or third place,” she said. “While you’re getting them thrown at you, you have to clean them up, take the target off, make sure that we have the winners and drag a rope to clean all the tomatoes off the ice within a certain time frame.”
Each game has its own stresses it can bring to the team, but Saunders makes sure her team is prepared, “We’re all in it together. If we’re stressed out we’ll kinda joke about it and if one of us is struggling we make sure we’re there for each other,” she said. “If we can’t find someone for a contest, another person will jump in and help out, if someone needs to be on a certain platform across the arena and someone else is already there, we radio and communicate to help each other out. It’s really big in communication.”
Saunders is not only captain of the promo-team for the Mariners, but a full-time student, a resident assistant in Upperclass Hall, and a job at Walmart. As a senior, she is also preparing for graduation, and spoke to how she juggles all of her responsibilities, “I have multiple roles and it’s definitely challenging at times being a student and getting all of my work done. You just kind of prioritize and get ahead of the game. If I know I have a game on a Saturday night, I know that Saturday morning or in the days before I have time to get my work done, as well as doing my other jobs. If I have a resident that needs my help I’ll always make sure that I’m there for them,” she said.
Saunders uses writing and checklists as tools to stay organized, “I write things down religiously, I will write things down and check them off the moment I get them done. I make sure I have a support system around me, and it’s challenging but I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember.”
A Colorado native, Saunders has had a long love for the game of hockey, “I love my job at the Mariners, it’s sort of what I want to do when I graduate. It doesn’t feel like a job when I go in, it’s really cool getting paid to watch hockey and run the show behind the scenes,” she said. Her favorite teams are the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. Her dream job would be with the Bruins, whether it be in marketing or game operations, and would be willing to venture into other sports like baseball or football, but hockey is where her heart lies.
The Mariners season is currently underway, as they move into their second month of the season. Their next home game is Saturday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. against the Adirondack Thunder at the Cross Insurance Arena as the team hosts “Military Appreciation Night”, as well as giving away winter beanies to the first 2,000 fans.