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Islanders create top-notch internship program

Wednesday, 06.23.2010 / 8:43 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Walking down a long royal blue hallway, ice hockey memorabilia line the walls. Periodically, a doorway appears. Peaking inside, there are 12 cubicles dedicated to employees working in outside sales. Next door, people work in group sales.

Breaking out into a clearing, there are conference rooms, the copy room and the offices of Paul Lancey, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Howard Saffan, President of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Now there are two options, continue up the stairs to the public relations and marketing departments or continue down the hall to a glass wall revealing an office dedicated to importance. The General Manager of the New York Islanders, Garth Snow, sits on the opposite side.

Each day of the 10-week Islanders University summer program, 30 interns come to work at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and this is what they see as they are submerged into all aspects of running a professional ice hockey organization – The New York Islanders.

Thousands of college students vie for an internship in the sports industry every year. According to Saffan, “A leadership committee of Islanders employees interviewed thousands of college students, and selected a group of 30 students; that’s who we have here for the summer.”

Unmatched by any other professional sports organization’s internship program, Islanders University is open to college and graduate students who are native to Long Island.

“Islanders University is the premier sports internship program in the country,” Saffan said. “What we try to do with Islanders University provides college or graduate students a snapshot of what it’s like to participate/work for a sports team.”

“There is a marked bias of students from Long Island because we want to give back to our community.”

At the beginning of each week, the interns rotate to a new department so that they learn what kind of job interests them. Departments include corporate sales, group sales, marketing, social media, accounting, retail merchandise and hockey operations.

Designing the internship program was a collaborative process. “The genesis of Islanders University came from owner Charles Wang. Charles suggested we create an internship program that would be second to none,” Saffan said.

Saffan has been an integral part of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for years, but before he became an executive, he spent time as an intern – except his experience came from working in a law firm. Saffan liked how the firm organized their program and decided to model Islanders University after his own internship experience.

“When I attended law school, I was a summer associate working for a large firm in New York City, I had the benefit from going from department to department throughout the law firm,” Saffan explained. “In the law field they treat their summer internship program as a recruiting process and so correspondingly we did the same here.”

“The goal is for the New York Islander family to hire from within; to someone who starts out as an intern then steps up into an entry-level position and eventually works their way up and takes on the responsibility of being part of the management staff of the New York Islanders,” Saffan added.

Dedicated to giving back to their Long Island community, the Islanders have given their interns the chance to flourish. They don’t get coffee or spend their entire day making copies. Instead, they pitch new ideas in the group sales department, make phone calls to season ticket holders and attend educational field trips and motivational speeches.

“The students, as part of the University process, meet on a weekly basis and have lunch with an executive at the Islanders,” Saffan said. “They will also take field trips through the course of the program, traveling to different arena’s in the tri-state area, a family fun entertainment center, etc.

“Our goal is to provide our college interns with the experience of a lifetime.”




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