While growing up in Maymont, Sask., Battlefords North Stars marketing and office manager Caitlyn Gray played volleyball, enjoyed some badminton, dabbled in some dance, and even tried figure skating (though that didn't last long).
But her second job after completing a recreation and tourism management diploma at Saskatchewan Polytechnic (formerly Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology) has thrust her into the hockey world.
"I never played hockey. I didn't have siblings that played hockey but I was able to fall into this [role] pretty good and have learned to love the sport," Gray said. "I went out of high school not knowing what I wanted to do. I knew I loved sports and then I found...recreation and tourism management."
After getting her diploma from Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Gray took over a maternity position as the executive assistant with the Battlefords Boys and Girls Club (BBGC), a position she held for just over a year. While there, she worked on fundraising, sponsorship, grant writing; pretty much everything behind the scenes.
In the summer of 2016, Trent Cey left the North Stars marketing role following three seasons of work, at which time a couple people recommended that position to Gray.
Having already made connections in the Battlefords community thanks to her previous role, she got the North Stars gig.
Little did she know, she'd be in for quite a ride in her first year, with the club winning a championship.
"It was crazy," Gray said. "It was an amazing first year. I found it very easy to market that team last year, and this year too. Very easy to market a winning team."
So what made her first year so crazy, if the marketing part came fairly easily?
"The crazy schedule," she said. "I found I would finally learn one thing, like you would come up to a game that has a special event with it, and then all of a sudden it was 'move on to the next.'
"So that part of things was really tricky. But I also found it really fun, being busy all the time."
Gray's tasks encompass everything behind the scenes for the team, from planning game day promotions, to organizing volunteers, to planning community events with players, to running the team's social media accounts and website.
These days, it feels like there's a promotion for every home game.
This past Tuesday was a 'Toonie Tuesday' promotion, along with a pet and toy drive. Thursday is Children's Wish Foundation game night, Friday is Pink in the Rink for anti-bullying, and on Saturday the pink game-worn jersey's from Friday's game will be up for silent auction. This weekend is also billets/parents weekend for the families of the players.
"You have times like these couple weeks here [with six home games the last nine days] where it's crazy busy," Gray said, "and then you do have some off time, but you've got to take advantage of that [time off] and use it to plan the upcoming stuff."
One of her favourite parts of the job is going out into the community with the players.
"They have a blast and just the reaction from the community [is amazing]," Gray said. "We go to a lot of schools, and the kids just act like they're their heroes and it just makes their month or week, or whatever. The kids just get so excited to see them and I love just going out and being able to see that. I think the players don't always realize how much of an impact they're making on these kids, but it's huge."
Something in the works is bringing back a big winter fundraiser to replace the ice fishing derby, which hasn't run for two seasons now. Gray said ideas have been brought up, but nothing has been given the green light yet.
However, with the team in good financial standing, there's no reason to rush into something that will only last a year or two.
"I want to find something that we can do year after year and continue it for a while," Gray said.
What has blown her away in her one and a half seasons so far is the support from the community.
"Our community is amazing," she said. "It's crazy, the generosity that the businesses and our supporters show us and I think that's a reason why we don't have to do those extra fundraisers. And that's huge...Being a successful team, our attendance is higher than most, so that also helps us a lot. With attendance, we also get higher 50/50s and the bar sales are better and all that. Our community is why we can do that."
According to the SJHL website, only two of the North Stars 22 home games so far this season have had an attendance of under 800 people (both of those have happened on Tuesday night games).
The club is averaging the highest attendance in the league.
"I've tried to bring in some new things this year," Gray said. "[Now] I know what's going on actually this year, I learnt all of that stuff, so this year I focused on bringing in new fun things for the team [and] for the fans.
"Every day is different and that's why I love this job."
Gray said she has thought a little bit about her future, ideally wanting to move into a Western Hockey League marketing role, but added it doesn't need to be a role in hockey.
"I would like to stick in this industry, but where, I don't know," she said. "Hopefully, maybe get into the WHL eventually and kind of move up from there. Just kind of see what comes up. You never know."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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