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Big Learning in the Big Apple

Big Learning in the Big Apple

It was a dream trip for students in our dual-enrollment Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA) class in sports management—visits to both the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and the headquarters of a major U.S. sports league on the same day! 

The journey to New York City took them on an in-depth tour of Madison Square Garden (MSG) led by Robert Castronovo, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Arena Operations, and to the offices of the National Hockey League (NHL) for a chat with Manager of Events Catie Dillon and a team of marketing and event planning professionals.

“It was a valuable experience for the students because it reinforced everything we discussed in class,” said History and Social Sciences Teacher Misi Babington. “Effective communication and listening skills, looking people in the eye, shaking their hand—I saw quite a few light bulbs go off! I told them from day one that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. I think they realize that even more after this.”

Misi started planting the seeds for the trip in November with an assist from Dr. Gina Pauline, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Director of Sport Management at Syracuse, who is a university liaison for Canterbury’s SUPA program. Dr. Pauline connected Misi with the right people, and she took it from there.

The day started at the Garden, where Mr. Castronovo guided students first through the loading and unloading areas, then alongside the rink where the visiting Ottawa Senators were taking their morning skate for that night’s game. “That is something very few people see,” Misi explained. “The floor was prepped for ice hockey, but the Knicks had played the night before, and SZA was coming in for an upcoming concert. They are constantly flipping the arena. Everything is calculated and calibrated. It was great for the kids to be made aware of that aspect of it—the skills you need to run events.”

It made quite an impression on Nicolas Caro ’24. “Seeing all the little things that go into each event at MSG made my jaw drop to the floor,” Nick said. “And the NHL headquarters visit was amazing too. We heard from many different perspectives, and I left with a much better understanding of what it is like to work in a professional sports league.”

Misi shared that her students also learned some important lessons about customer service from Mr. Castronovo. “Bobby is very high on customer relations and how to make it the best experience for them,” she said. “He talked about how to keep customers coming back, and the students understood even more all that we had discussed in class. You could see them putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Jack Guinta ’23 hung on every word. “I was very focused on how Mr. Castronovo operated and what his mindset was,” Jack recalled. “I am most interested in the business side of things—marketing, finance, what goes on in the background. I stuck close to him and asked plenty of questions. It was a great opportunity.” 

While at the NHL, students sat down with Ms. Dillon and other executives in a large boardroom 27 stories above the city. Patrick Ryan, Senior Director of Partnership Marketing, shared how they develop different marketing ideas. He also spoke of how, when creating commercials, they had to be absolutely sure it was authentic and true to what the NHL wanted to portray before putting their stamp of approval on it.

“The students asked some excellent questions,” Misi said. “It was nice to see them process what they learned in the classroom, hear what he was saying, and then make the connection between the two.”

While it was a long day in the big city, it was an extraordinary experience for all—or, as Nick described it, “the single best school trip I have ever been on!”