Caitlyn Gray is excited to contribute to the NHL team's event presentation creating a fun atmosphere and providing entertainment when the puck isn’t dropped

December 2023

Caitlyn Gray’s world gets chaotic as the summer fades to fall. As the coordinator of event presentation for the Edmonton Oilers, she’s busy preparing promotions for the season. Entering her first full season in the role, Gray is excited to contribute to the Oilers’ event presentation. “You’re event planning, attending the events and in the middle of the excitement. I love it,” she says. “I look forward to making the promotions successful and putting my stamp on it.”

Gray is a graduate of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Recreation and Tourism Management diploma program. With no idea of what she wanted to do after high school, she worked with her school’s career counselor and came across the program. Her love of sports and traveling made it a great fit. “The more I looked into it, the more it made sense for me. It sounded fun,” says Gray.

The two-year program lets you take your career in many directions from recreation, tourism and sports to leisure development, facility management and special events, something Gray relished. “That’s the beauty of it, there’s so many directions you can go. Almost no one in my class took the same career path,” she says.

Says program head Josh Davidson: “The Recreation and Tourism Management program offers many opportunities for graduates to mold their career and contribute to their communities. Caitlyn is a fantastic example of how creating connections and applying knowledge from the program can lead to a successful career.”

As Gray puts it, many opportunities along her career path have fallen into her lap. After graduation, Gray started a job near her hometown at the Battlefords Boys & Girls Club. The role was to fill a maternity leave of one of her friends. She planned and implemented fundraising events for the organization and made important connections that led to her next role at the Battlefords North Stars junior hockey club. As the marketing and office manager, Gray spent two years working on everything from ticket sales and corporate sponsorships to game day coordination, scripting and promotions. “It was crazy. I pretty much lived at the rink but I loved it!” she says. “It made me realize that this is what I wanted to do.”

Wanting to see where her experience could take her, Gray packed up and moved to Saskatoon to start a ticket sales position with the Saskatoon Blades Hockey Club. She spent four years with the Blades moving to different positions including game day and events manager, which was responsible for game presentation of both the Blades and Saskatchewan Rush.

“I was happy with the Blades and Rush. I enjoyed what I was doing there and the variety of work,” she adds. Although Gray didn’t foresee leaving the Blades, life threw a curveball when her boyfriend accepted a hockey coaching job in Germany. Gray made the difficult decision to put her career on hold while she travelled with him. “It was scary leaving a job and industry I loved but I took a leap of faith and knew something would pull me back,” she says.

After four months of travelling, a new opportunity presented itself to Gray. An opening in the Oilers event presentation division. Knowing the person who left the role, Gray found out it was vacant and reached out to another connection she made while with the North Stars. Her connection, who now happens to be her boss at the Oilers, encouraged her to apply. She did the interview from Germany and decided to accept the job, moving to Edmonton in January of 2023.

Everything fell into place for Gray. Her boyfriend even landed a coaching job outside of Edmonton. Gray is proud of her career thus far and acknowledges that her experience at Sask Polytech helped her reach her career goals.

“I had so many amazing experiences at Sask Polytech,” she says. “I learned to work under pressure and to manage my time properly which I’ve applied every day on the job.” Gray was also happy to have small class sizes and become part of a tight knit group with her fellow students. “I’m still close with many of my classmates and some of them are my best friends,” she says. “You also get to know your instructors and they become mentors. I’m still in contact and lean on some of them as I move through my career.”

Focused on the season ahead, Gray is excited to get started. “During home games I floor direct and run around the arena with our in-stand host to make sure promotions run on time,” she explains. Gray also manages the orange and blue ice crew, a promotions team of 35. Her role involves lots of planning for home games and community events to ensure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and when. “It’s all about creating a fun atmosphere and providing entertainment when the puck isn’t dropped,” she says.

Gray recommends students network and take opportunities such as internships. “You don’t fully understand what goes into event production until you see it. It’s really neat to be a part of the behind the scenes,” she says. “This is such a rewarding job! You put in the effort, you put on the event and get the instant reward. You get fan feedback and then start all over again with the next event. The chaos, the excitement, the long hours, it’s all worth it. It’s all about the fan experience.”